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Significant reduction in vaccine hesitancy since December, study finds

by Isabel Shaw
31 March 2021

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More than four in five people who said they were unsure or would refuse the Covid vaccine in December 2020 have since changed their mind, according to a study.

The study, conducted by University College London (UCL), found 86% of adults who were hesitant to have the vaccine in December had been vaccinated or were willing to be in February 2021.

Researchers from UCL tracked the responses of 14,713 adults in England and Wales between December and February and found that the drop in vaccine hesitancy was consistent across all ethnic groups and all levels of social deprivation.

According to the study, 87% of White British adults who were previously hesitant had changed their mind, while the figure was 90% in adults from South Asian backgrounds and 88% in adults from Black backgrounds.

Dr Parth Patel, clinical research fellow and lead author of the paper, said: ‘The really good news is the overwhelming majority of people who were reluctant about taking a vaccine just a few months ago have now changed their minds.

‘Most people are considering the vaccine carefully and saying ‘yes’ when it’s their turn.’

Hesitancy higher in younger adults

The research did however find that disparities in uptake still exist across some groups, with people aged 25 to 35 almost nine times more likely to refuse a Covid vaccine in February compared to those over the age of 75.

Meanwhile, older adults were the least likely cohort to have concerns about the safety of the vaccine, and most likely to be concerned about contracting the virus, the study found.

Professor Rob Aldridge, co-lead investigator of the UCL Virus Watch study, said: ‘Our work shows the importance of making repeated offers of the vaccine because so many people have changed their mind in recent months.

‘Getting vaccinated should be made as easy as possible over the coming months with clear information and advice provided by trusted community leaders including younger adults as they become eligible for vaccination.’

Earlier this month, some practices reported an increase in cancellations after the decision by some European countries to temporarily suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of blood clots.

Meanwhile, in February, a GP in East London said that she was personally calling every eligible patient yet to take up an offer of vaccination.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title, the Pharmacist.