Diversity of attitudes towards complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and vaccines: A representative cross-sectional study in France

Soc Sci Med. 2023 Jul;328:115952. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115952. Epub 2023 May 3.


How much does endorsement of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) correlate with negative attitudes towards vaccines? One of the difficulties of analysing the relationship between attitudes to CAM and attitudes towards vaccines rests in the complexity of both. Which form of CAM endorsement is associated with what type of reticence towards vaccines? While the literature on the relationship between CAM and attitudes towards vaccines is growing, this question has not yet been explored. In this study we present the results of a survey conducted in July 2021 among a representative sample of the French mainland adult population (n = 3087). Using cluster analysis, we identified five profiles of CAM attitudes and found that even among the most pro-CAM group, very few respondents disagreed with the idea that CAM should only be used as a complement to conventional medicine. We then compared these CAM attitudes to vaccine attitudes. Attitudes to CAM had a distinct impact as well as a combined effect on attitudes to different vaccines and vaccines in general. However, we also found a) that attitudes to CAM provide a very limited explanation of vaccine hesitancy and b) that, among the hesitant, pro-CAM attitudes are often combined with other traits associated with vaccine hesitancy such as distrust of health agencies, radical political preferences and low income. Indeed, we found that both CAM endorsement and vaccine hesitancy are more prevalent among the socially disadvantaged. Drawing on these results, we argue that, to better understand the relationship between CAM and vaccine hesitancy, it is necessary to look at how both can reflect lack of access and recourse to mainstream medicine and distrust of public institutions.

Keywords: CAM; France; Vaccine hesitancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • France
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines* / therapeutic use


  • Vaccines