Manufacturing Consent for Vaccine Mandates: A Comparative Case Study of Communication Campaigns in France and Australia

Dr. Katie Attwell

France and Australia are among a handful of high-income jurisdictions to recently introduce more comprehensive and restrictive mandatory childhood vaccination regimes in response to parental refusal and the risk this poses for outbreaks of disease. However, only France and Australia have accompanied their new vaccine mandates with comprehensive communication campaigns oriented towards building acceptance amongst the population. Best practice in vaccination social science regards restrictive vaccine mandates as a last resort only once all less coercive options have been adequately attempted. But persuasion work should also accompany mandates to ensure that the smallest cohort possible feels the teeth of the sanctions the policy imposes.

France and Australia have accompanied their intensified vaccine mandates with persuasion efforts. But close analysis is necessary to determine how they construct the publics they seek to engage with, how informed they are by evidence (including about communication), who their target audiences are, and how they seek to reach them. Accordingly, we present the results of content analysis conducted on the French and Australian campaigns and campaign strategies, scrutinising websites, accessible official social media and public proclamations by officials in print and online media. Comparatively analysing the French and Australian campaigns can tell us how effectively governments engage in persuasion work to accompany vaccine mandates, but also how these communication efforts are constrained by the particular structure of public health administrations in each country. This can provide lessons for future governments on how to best implement public communications campaigns if resorting to vaccine mandates.