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To trust or not to trust (in doctors)? That is the question
  1. Paul Ward
  1. Correspondence to Professor Paul Ward, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia; paul.ward{at}flinders.edu.au

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The accompanying paper on vaccine distrust in France raises the ongoing and thorny issue of trust and distrust in childhood vaccinations, although this time from the perspective of doctors.1 The authors interviewed 16 French doctors who regularly treated adolescents and had experience of talking with adolescents and their parents about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. HPV vaccination rates are particularly low in France, and the authors set out to explore some of the reasons from the perspectives of doctors. One of the over-riding themes from the interviews was a distrust in the HPV vaccination, not in and of itself, but the stakeholders who had a part to play in vaccinations. They questioned their own knowledge of HPV vaccinations and ability to talk with adolescents about sexuality, distrusted the pharmaceutical industry to provide impartial information and were not fully convinced of the benefit-to-risk ratio of the HPV vaccination. All in all, these various levels of questioning and unease led to a general distrust in the HPV vaccination, leading to a situation whereby ‘the doctor becomes an involuntary instrument of the anti-vaccination discourse’.1

The key purpose of this Editorial is to explore the sometimes murky and impenetrable world of sociological theory, as applied to trust. It draws on my and colleagues’ publications on parental trust in childhood vaccinations in Australia, which provide neat synopses of different sociological ideas.2–5

The times when we were simply, even blindly, expected to trust people because they were in positions of power has gone. This is not to say that people in power should not be trusted, but simply that people are expected to question such authority, access other sources of information and perform the role of the ‘informed citizen’. Across many countries and cultures, this unquestioning of power has been somewhat eroded and, in …

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