‘Deeply concerning’: Only just over half of Britons are committed to taking coronavirus vaccine, study finds

Warning that ‘conspiracy theories and mistrust of government, authority and science’ threaten best chance of beating Covid-19

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 09 August 2020 08:45 BST
How does the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine work?

Only just over half of Britons are committed to taking a coronavirus vaccine, according to new research described as “deeply concerning”.

People opposed to mask-wearing, those who distrust scientists, and people who believe “too much fuss is being made about the pandemic” are most likely to refuse, it finds.

More young people will also reject the jab – with 22 per cent of under-34s saying they definitely will, or are likely to, compared with only 11 per cent of those aged between 55 and 75.

The author of the study, by King’s College London (KCL), warned that “conspiracy theories and mistrust of government, authority and science” could undermine the best chance of defeating Covid-19.

“Misperceptions about vaccines are among our most directly damaging beliefs, and they’re clearly influencing people’s intentions during the coronavirus crisis, said Professor Bobby Duffy, director of KCL’s Policy Institute.

“Vaccines are one of our greatest achievements, and there is a great deal of faith that we’ll eventually develop one for Covid-19 – but more still need to be convinced of how important it could be for ending this crisis.”

Gideon Skinner, research director at pollsters Ipsos Mori, said slightly more Britons appeared set to accept a Covid-19 vaccine than one for seasonal flu, but said the results were “still deeply concerning”.

Scientists believe that at least 70 per cent of the population will need to be vaccinated to provide the “herd immunity” that it is thought will get the country back to normality.

Hopes are rising that a jab will be available next year, after trials at Oxford University produced an immune response in volunteers, although it is unclear how long that will last within the body.

No fewer than 26 candidates are being developed, according to the World Health Organisation, as a process normally taking up to 15 years is squeezed into a matter of months.

But the KCL study found that only 53 per cent of the UK population is “certain or very likely” to get a vaccine against the virus.

About one in six people (16 per cent) said they would reject it, or are likely to, 11 per cent said they did not know, while the remaining 20 per cent are only fairly likely to get a jab.

The findings come after Boris Johnson hit out at anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists, describing them as “nuts”.

Among the groups doubtful about getting a vaccine are those who think the government wants people to wear masks to control the public (34 per cent), those doubting scientific experts (33 per cent) and those who do not “follow the rules at all times” (24 per cent).

Where people’s knowledge comes from is also a factor – with 27 per cent gathering information on Covid-19 from WhatsApp saying they’re unlikely to, or definitely won’t, get a vaccine.

Only 4 per cent of people said a vaccine will never arrive – but just 44 per cent think it will available in a year or less.

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