The government has been urged to unleash a secret weapon to boost the public’s trust in a coronavirus vaccine: Her Majesty the Queen.
Professor Heidi Larson, a vaccine misinformation expert, said that people’s concerns about vaccine safety were not being addressed – which could result in many not taking it.
Scientists have warned that a functioning Covid-19 vaccine “might not be enough” to end the pandemic – unless governments are asserting in tackling coronavirus misinformation.
‘It’s the trust she gets’
Speaking to The Times, Professor Larson – who advises the government and leads the Vaccine Confidence Project – called on the Queen to help build trust among older Brits.
“If there’s one thing I’ve seen, and I’ve been in the UK for over a decade now, it’s the trust the Queen gets,” she said.
“And she’s certainly in that older cohort, so I think that’s actually really, really smart.”
The “big question”, Professor Larson said, is whether the Queen – who is 94 – would get a vaccine herself, noting that the monarch is “an important voice”.
She also lashed out at the government’s messaging around vaccines, accusing them of lacking a “coherent communication strategy”.
In a study involving five countries, including the UK, scientists found a “clear link” between Covid-19 conspiracy theories and hesitancy around future coronavirus vaccines.
While a majority of those surveyed judged the misinformation to be unreliable, the researchers said they found certain conspiracy theories to have taken hold in “significant portions of the population”.
Dr Sander van der Linden, who is director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and one of the authors on the study, said: “We find a clear link between believing coronavirus conspiracies and hesitancy around any future vaccine.
“As well as flagging false claims, governments and technology companies should explore ways to increase digital media literacy in the population.
“Otherwise, developing a working vaccine might not be enough.”
A government spokesperson said: “The science is clear – vaccines save lives, which is why we are leading a global effort to find a Covid-19 vaccine.
“Vaccine misinformation in any form is completely unacceptable and it is everyone’s responsibility to seek NHS advice, so that they have the right information to make the right choice.
“Since the start of the pandemic, specialist UK Government units have also been working rapidly to identify and rebut false information about coronavirus, including working closely with social media companies.”