The most comprehensive study of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy to date shows a majority willing to be vaccinated but a substantial minority concerned.
Researchers surveyed a representative group of 5,114 UK adults about an approved COVID-19 vaccine for the NHS. The results published in the journal Psychological Medicine, indicated that 72% are willing to be vaccinated, 16% are very unsure, and 12% are strongly hesitant.
Vaccine hesitancy was found to occur when the person: cannot see any collective benefit; the person doesn’t see themselves at risk; the vaccine effectiveness is in doubt; there is concern about side effects; or there is a fear that the speed of development has compromised safety. These beliefs explained almost all of vaccine hesitancy. Rooted in longer-standing issues of mistrust, higher levels of hesitancy were associated with negative views of doctors, poorer NHS experiences, concerns about the financial motivations of vaccine developers, discontent with institutions, coronavirus conspiracy concerns, and vaccination conspiracy ideas.
“We need strong messaging that taking a vaccination is actually a duty we need to do for the benefit of everyone. Most people can see vaccination as the light at the end of the tunnel, but they are also looking for detailed information on the topic that they can trust. They want reassurance that the speed of development has not compromised safety. They want thorough information on effectiveness, safety, and how long protection will last.”Professor Daniel Freeman, University of Oxford and study lead
Approximately a quarter of the population are entertaining the idea that the virus is a hoax. Around one in five people think vaccine data may be fabricated, with another one in four people unsure whether such data are made-up. Similar proportions of the population think that there is a cover-up of a link between autism and vaccines.
“Ensuring high levels of vaccine uptake is critical for the real world effectiveness of any vaccine. Now that we have effective vaccines against SARS CoV2, it is essential we do everything we can to maximise uptake. This timely study on vaccine hesitancy addresses the underlying reasons for a mistrust in vaccines. It is only by addressing these underlying thoughts and assumptions that we can develop strategies to minimise them, and ensure we maximise the public health benefits of the available vaccines. This is true for all our licensed vaccines but is of immediate relevance to the impending rollout of the SARS CoV2 vaccines.”Professor Helen McShane, University of Oxford and study team member
Vaccine hesitancy was higher in younger people, females, and those on lower incomes, but these were only very small associations, indicating hesitancy is evenly spread across the population. The Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey (OCEANS II) was conducted between 24 September and 17 October 2020 with 5,114 UK adults, quota sampled to match the population for age, gender, ethnicity, income, and region.
To read the full paper got to COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in the UK: The Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey (OCEANS) II