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Vaccine passports would encourage over a third of unvaccinated to get Covid jab, survey finds

by Jess Hacker
7 June 2021

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More than a third (37%) of unvaccinated people would feel ‘more inclined’ to get a Covid-19 jab if vaccine passports were introduced domestically, a study has shown.

This number increased to 43% if vaccine passports were introduced internationally, it found.

The survey of 17,000 people – of which 6,338 were unvaccinated – was conducted in April by the Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

Support was lower among people who have not yet been offered a vaccine and are vaccine hesitant, it found, with 33% saying they would be more likely to get a jab if passports were introduced internationally.

The introduction of passports could therefore ‘drive more hesitancy’ among an ‘already hard-to-vaccinate’ group, the report said.

Almost two thirds (63%) of the same group of respondents (not yet invited and hesitant) said they wished to be ‘free to reject a vaccine without consequences on their ability to attend social events’, and 55% said vaccine passports would ‘infringe’ on their personal liberties.

There are currently no published plans to make Covid documents a requirement of entry to mass events domestically – despite several months of consideration – although a Government roadmap review published earlier this year said ‘the NHS solution will facilitate international travel where certification is required’.

Patients are currently able to access their digital health records to prove their vaccination status, with practice managers reporting an increase in the number of these requests.

‘If vaccine passports are to be launched the narrative should focus on international rather than domestic implications of the passport,’ the Vaccine Confidence Project’s report said.

Growing confidence

The survey – which aims to track changes in confidence over time – found safety concerns and the perception that development of the vaccines was ‘rushed’ were the driving factors behind vaccine hesitancy.

It found, however, that nearly two thirds two-thirds (63%) of unvaccinated people said they will ‘definitely’ take the vaccine – an increase from 49% in October 2020.

Confidence has also grown among women, with 63% saying they would definitely take the vaccine, up from 43% in October.

The report said that there had been an increase in confidence among the Black community, by 6% among those aged 18-44 years, but it added that there is ‘still much work to do to convince them to take vaccine’.

Meanwhile, two-fifths (40%) of unvaccinated adults who would ‘outright refuse’ the vaccine agreed that they also ‘sometimes find it hard to communicate to healthcare professionals’.

Changes in perception of NHS immunisation

Commenting on the findings, Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS national medical director for primary care, said that tackling vaccine hesitancy has been ‘at the heart of’ the NHS vaccine programme.

She said that since the NHS launched its plan to encourage uptake in February, it has reached people ‘from all communities and backgrounds through a combination of dedicated NHS teams who know and understand their communities’, pop-up clinics and engaging with faith leaders.

Dr Alex de Figueiredo, principal investigator and research fellow at the VCP, said: ‘Although pockets of sub-optimal intent to vaccinate remain in large urban settings, these data suggest large overall increases in intent to accept the vaccine across all socio-demographic groups, reflecting increases in perceptions towards the NHS immunisation programme.’