The discovery of multiple effective vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) offers a path out of the global pandemic that has already claimed over 2.79 million lives from over 127 million infections worldwide.
The success of global vaccination will depend on achieving herd immunity, either by individuals acquiring immunity through vaccination or from infection. As vaccine efforts roll out in many countries, vaccine hesitancy remains an issue. However, researchers at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London, found that the number of people who are willing to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has increased considerably.
The study, which appeared on the pre-print server medRxiv*, aimed to examine the general public’s willingness to receive COVID-19 vaccines and their safety concerns.
More than one year into the pandemic, many vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from various countries’ Drug Administrators.
Previous studies have shown that up to a third of the population may be resistant to receiving the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.
People’s willingness to receive the COVID-19 vaccine
The researchers aimed to examine the respondents’ willingness to get vaccinated. The team also analyzed the respondents’ perceptions about vaccine safety and whether their government would conduct a mass vaccination.
The researchers also compared the changes in attitude to get vaccinated between November 2020 to January 2021. They also collected cross-sectional nationally representative data from 15 countries. These include Canada, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Norway, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The team found that across the 15 countries, the proportion of people reporting they would get the COVID-19 vaccine increased from 40.7 percent to 55.2 percent. Meanwhile, the number of people who worried about the vaccine’s side effects dropped from 53.3 percent to 47.9 percent.
When the team conducted a second survey, they revealed that the willingness to receive the vaccine remained low in females, those between the ages of 18 and 39, unemployed, students, and those with children at home.
Females, those between 18 and 64 years old, employed individuals, those who are not working, and those with children at home remain worried about the vaccine’s safety.
“COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy decreased considerably over a relatively short time coinciding with the discovery of effective vaccines,” the team noted in the study.
“The public remains concerned about their safety, and public health messaging will need to emphasis their safety, especially amongst females, parents, and younger adults,” the authors added.
A person’s perception of the safety of COVID-19 vaccines is a strong predictor if they would be willing to be jabbed. Another factor that may influence vaccine hesitancy is the rapid nature of COVID-19 vaccine research.
Overall, the study tackled the general public’s willingness to receive a vaccine, which has been growing over time. As vaccine efforts commenced, it is crucial for health teaching and education to be highlighted. People need to understand the importance of getting the vaccine to protect themselves against the SARS-CoV-2.
The researchers hope that more people will be willing to be vaccinated. The more people are protected, the easier it will be to return to normal. Herd immunity is essential to containing the spread of the current pandemic.
The authors conclude, “Our findings highlight the willingness of the general public to receive a vaccine is growing over time and the population subgroups that may need to be targeted with tailored public health messaging around the benefits and safety associated with receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Although in several countries, willingness to vaccinate increased considerably, in half the countries surveyed, in many population sub-groups, less than half would have a vaccine. More than half were worried about the side-effects. Further data is needed to understand attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines from low- and middle-income countries, especially those in South America, Middle East and Africa. Follow-up surveys will need to be undertaken in these and other countries to monitor longer-term changes in public attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine if the goal of herd immunity is to be achieved”.
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.