Research reveals five reasons behind UK vaccine hesitancy

UK vaccine hesitancy, COVID
© Rodrigo Fernández

New data explores why some in the UK continue to experience vaccine hesitancy – with one man explaining that “it is human nature to have second thoughts”

The UK is over two-thirds vaccinated, with younger and younger groups becoming eligible to take the doses. Fully vaccinated, vulnerable adults over the age of 50 are expected to even take a third booster shot in Autumn, 2021. 

According to an ongoing study by Imperial College London, the UK vaccine rollout and accompanying social distancing measures have directly caused a decrease in the horrific level of COVID hospitalisations and deaths witnessed throughout the country. Over 130,000 people lost their lives. Others lost organ function and loved ones, jobs and homes. Deaths resonated across the population, particularly in disproportionately hit lower-income and ethnic minority communities.

Though the UK has experienced devastation, it is now experiencing a level of hope only available to a country with the financial capacity to create and access COVID vaccines. Some poorer countries are not going to be able to vaccinate until atleast 2023.

Some people have fears that are rooted in decades of racial discrimination. Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe, explains that there are “genuine concerns” behind vaccine hesitancy in the Black community. In her perspective, GPs can bridge a gap of misinformation by responding to their patients’ concerns without judgement.

She commented: “Some of these stem from individual and group experiences of healthcare and others relate to inclusion and access to credible information.”

When removing the understandable hesitancy caused by systemic racism, what does that leave?

Five reasons for UK vaccine hesitancy

1. People don’t trust the safety of COVID vaccines

The most common reason is relatively simple – people are wary of how fast the vaccines were developed and brought into public use. They don’t think that the vaccines have been around long enough for scientists to understand long-term impacts.

However, the world has never experienced a global pandemic on this scale. Governments were forced to invest in vaccines in a way they never needed to before.

2. People don’t think vaccines are necessary

The second most common reason is that people simply don’t get why vaccines are necessary. They believe that if they keep their immune system strong, and follow social distancing measures, they won’t personally be in danger of contracting the virus.

In reality, the virus will continue to mutate and exist. It will never quite disappear if we let it circulate by lacking the antibodies to stop it.

3. People aren’t scared of catching COVID

Another reason, which is more common among younger people, is that people aren’t scared of the virus. They believe that they won’t experience serious symptoms, so they’re happy to just follow distancing advice and rely on their immune system.

An anonymous woman, age 35 to 39 years, commented: “I feel like I’m young enough and healthy enough so I would probably fight it off myself.”

4. Some people believe babies are used as a vaccine ingredient

Some of the study respondents said that they heard babies had been used to create the COVID vaccine. This is scientifically untrue. But the rumours raised ethical and religious concerns for them, especially if they are also anti-choice in the matter of abortion. This kind of vaccine hesitancy is hard to counteract.

A Welshman, aged between 40 to 44 years, said: “I thought it was disgusting that they could use something like foetus material in that and put it into another person’s body … I didn’t trust it very much, it could be lies but then maybe not … it is human nature to have second thoughts; maybe they are not lying.”

5. Some just faced barriers to attending an appointment

Some participants who were unable to get to their appointment said it was difficult to find a time that works – because childcare needs to be in place, and only one child can be brought to the appointment. Others were unable to physically travel to the appointment centre, and some explained that mental health conditions made it hard to get to the injection point itself.

A woman in England, aged between 18 to 24, said: “I find it so hard to keep any appointments, you can only take one child with you. Doctors get funny if you bring two… going to dentist appointments have been difficult.

“I know they want to limit numbers, but some families will not be able to do it.”

Read the full study here.


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