Vaccine skepticism interferes with governments’ abilities to maintain public safety. However, vaccine skepticism positively predicts country wealth rather than negatively. One explanation is that higher internet access could help spread anti-vaccine misinformation throughout society, particularly for those lower in scientific and medical expert trust (Online Accessibility hypothesis). An alternative explanation is that citizens in richer countries are less aware of vaccine-preventable disease risks because they are rarely experienced directly (Out of Sight hypothesis). To test these hypotheses, we merge country-level data with nationally-representative survey data (N = 149,014) from 144 countries. We find evidence for the Online Accessibility hypothesis; people in countries with greater internet access are significantly more likely to be vaccine skeptical. Further, we examine Americans’ vaccine attitudes during the COVID-19 outbreak - where a communicable disease is very ‘in-sight. ’We find anti-vaccine attitudes are similar or higher than pre-outbreak levels, which counters the Out of Sight Hypothesis.
Main manuscript was missing Table 1; minor typo in abstract ("to" changed to "or").