Only half the population of Britain definitely would accept being vaccinated against Covid-19. That is the shock conclusion of a group of scientists and pollsters who have found that only 53% of a test group of citizens said they would be certain or very likely to allow themselves to be given a vaccine against the disease if one becomes available.
By contrast, one in six (16%) said they would definitely not or would be unlikely to accept a vaccine, according to research by King’s College London and Ipsos Mori. In addition, it was found that one in five (20%) said they would only be “fairly likely” to go ahead with inoculation.
The study found vaccine rejection was strongest among those whose beliefs reflect greater scepticism about science and who are less concerned about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Likely refusal was also linked to those who tended to be less willing to wear face masks and who said they got most of their information about the disease from WhatsApp and other social media outlets.
There was also a significant age divide in responses with 22% of those in the 16-24 and 25-34 age groups saying they would be unlikely or definitely would not accept a vaccine compared with only 11% among 55-75 year-olds.
The trends revealed by the study – which was based on 2,237 interviews with UK residents aged 16-75 and which was carried out online in mid-July – have triggered dismay among scientists. “Misperceptions about vaccines are among our most directly damaging beliefs, and they’re clearly influencing people’s intentions during the coronavirus crisis,” said prof Bobby Duffy, director of King’s College London’s the Policy Institute, which led the study.
“While one in six in the UK say they are unlikely to or definitely won’t get a potential vaccine against Covid-19, this rises to around a third or more among certain groups, with a clear link to belief in conspiracy theories and mistrust of government, authority and science.”
This point was backed by Gideon Skinner, research director at Ipsos Mori. “Almost a quarter of 16-34-year-olds are saying they’re unlikely to get vaccinated for Covid-19 if one becomes available. That is deeply concerning and should serve as an important staging post for the government to combat misperceptions about vaccinations, particularly among young people.”