In Brief

One in five Britons won’t get Covid-19 vaccine amid ‘fears of side-effects’

Experts say findings of new study pose a ‘real worry’ for public health

One in five people in Britain are “unlikely” to accept a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available, with adverse side-effects and the motivations of commercial providers cited amongst concerns.

University College London’s Covid-19 social study, which saw more than 70,000 participants surveyed, found that just 49% of UK residents would be “very likely” to allow the jab to be administered, The Guardian reports.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the study is the largest probe of pandemic-related attitudes and behaviours to have been conducted and suggests “substantial levels of misinformation amongst the general public about vaccines”.

Out of the 22% of people that admitted they were unlikely to get inoculated, 10% suggested they were “very unlikely” to seek the jab.

Meanwhile, 7% of respondents were unsure of whether vaccines really did provide any protection, whilst 4% were convinced that vaccines were a con concocted by pharmaceutical companies. The study found that 38% said “natural immunity” was better than immunity from vaccines. 

Daisy Fancourt, associate professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at UCL and lead author of the study, said: “Whilst the majority of people have said they are likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine once one is available, a worrying amount of respondents have said that not only will they not get the vaccine, but that they don’t believe vaccines work or worry about potential side-effects, concerns that lack any basis in fact.”

The Times reports a further 15% believed, to a greater or lesser extent, that vaccines did not work, whilst a quarter of people asserted that vaccines were used for “commercial profiteering”.

Researchers also revealed that more than half of the participants thought vaccines had “unforeseen side effects” whereas 30% were apprehensive about “future problems that had not yet been discovered”.

Fear of mandatory vaccination programmes has been a central fixture of anti-lockdown protests across the US and Europe, the Independent says.

Many demonstrators’ views often stem from conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the healthcare sector and scientific authorities.

Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, told The Guardian that access to “reliable, evidence-based information” would be critical to “promoting high uptake”, and urged the government to be “open and honest with people to explain the vaccine development process”.

Cheryl Lloyd, education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, said the survey offers “valuable insights into public concerns about vaccinations”.

She added: “Given people’s reasons for distrust of vaccines, transparency about the scientific evidence and the role of commercial providers is likely to be a key factor in gaining public trust.”

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