Close to a third of Brits would be hesitant about getting a Covid-19 vaccine when one becomes available, new research has shown.
Nearly one-in-ten people told a survey they were unlikely to have the coronavirus vaccine – while 27 per cent said they were unsure about being immunised.
The findings, published in the journal Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, are based on a demographically representative sample of 1,500 adults in the UK.
‘Vaccination for altruistic reasons’
The aim of the research, conducted by a team from Keele University and King’s College London in collaboration with Public Health England, was to get a broad picture of the expected uptake of a future Covid-19 vaccine.
Joint first author Dr Sue Sherman, from Keele University’s School of Psychology, said: “It is encouraging that 64 per cent (of those surveyed) have indicated that they would be willing to have the Covid-19 vaccine.
“It is also really important that we understand what is driving that willingness to have a vaccination. One of the important factors that drove vaccine intention was a greater perceived risk to other people.
“So again, this suggests that vaccination campaigns and messaging need to highlight the need for vaccination for altruistic reasons.”
As part of the study, the researchers analysed associations between intention to be vaccinated when a jab becomes available, and socio-demographic factors such as age, race, ethnicity, and education.
The team found that those who had been previously vaccinated for flu, older people, those with more positive vaccination beliefs and attitudes, and people who perceived a greater risk of disease were more likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
Conversely, Dr Sherman said, being in a younger age group, not having a flu vaccine in the previous year, a belief that only people with serious risk of illness should have the vaccine, concern about adverse side effects, and holding negative beliefs about vaccines were associated with a lack of willingness to get the jab.
“We’ve also got something called perceived knowledge deficiencies – so if you believe that you have not had sufficient information, you may not be willing to get the vaccine,” she said.
Dr Sherman said that despite the pandemic nature and severity of Covid-19, high vaccine uptake cannot be assumed.
“There is something called the intention behaviour gap, whereby, we have only been able to measure intention to have a vaccine, rather than actual uptake of the vaccine.
“And the literature shows the actual uptake is usually lower than intention.”
“The scale and impact of Covid-19 are such that when a vaccine becomes available, we need to ensure that uptake is maximised in order to contain the mounting social and economic costs associated with the virus,” she added.
Joint first author Dr Louise Smith, from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit for Emergency Preparedness and Response at King’s College London, said: “A coronavirus vaccine could offer us a chance to get back on the road to ‘normal’. However, the vaccination programme will only be successful if people want to be vaccinated.”
The survey data was gathered in mid-July, but the researchers said they will be re-running the survey for more up-to-date information on attitudes towards coronavirus vaccines.
The findings come as initial results from clinical trials of Oxford, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown promising results, raising hopes that a coronavirus vaccine will become available very soon.
Dr Sherman added: “When we next collect data, whether the acceptability has gone up or down will really depend on what new information is coming out about vaccines at that point in time – which is why right messaging around vaccines is so important.”