Don't belittle vaccine-resistant Kiwis, psychologist urges, after study identifies link to adverse childhood experiences

A study has revealed a link between vaccine hesitancy or resistance and adverse childhood experiences - including abuse, neglect, and deprivations.

It's hoped the findings could help to tailor vaccine messaging to prepare for future pandemics.

While most people pulled on masks and pulled together, the pandemic also caused serious social divisions, with some vehemently rejecting vaccines and mandates.

But a study found many of those who were resistant had quite a tough upbringing.

"They had unfortunately undergone all sorts of adversities during childhood - maltreated or neglected - so we've surmised that they learned very early on not to trust authority," said psychologist Professor Richie Poulton, Director of Dunedin Study.

Prof Poulton says we shouldn't belittle or scorn people who are resistant, but try to be non-judgemental.

"Strategically that's bloody important if you want to get a maximum number of people vaccinated."

He says empowering communities has been key to our high vaccination rates.

"Trust is the name of the game," says Tony Kake, Papakura Marae CEO.

"Working with our community there's a whole lot of distrust so you need people that look like them, that speak like them, that I guess understand their background, that history."

Kake says one man came to the drive-through five or six times before deciding to get a vaccine.

"We just went at his pace, we said 'bro, you know we're open' - where we can come down and talk about it - and it took him several times before he finally got the jab and now the second jab.

"Don't know if he's got his booster yet, but we're working on it."

The report used data from the 50-year-old Dunedin health and development study, and hopes the long-term information can help in the event of future pandemics.