27 Nov 2020

The online survey of 1,500 UK adults also reported that 27% were unsure if they would have the vaccination, and just 9% – fewer than 1 in 10 – reported that they were unlikely to be vaccinated. 

The online cross-sectional survey was designed to understand the expected uptake of a future Covid-19 vaccine. The research was conducted by a team from King’s College London and Keele University, working in collaboration with Public Health England. 

The researchers collected the data between 14-17 July 2020 and analysed associations between intention to be vaccinated when a vaccine becomes available, and various socio-demographic factors. These factors included age, race, ethnicity, education, previous influenza vaccination, and general attitudes and beliefs around vaccines, Covid-19, and Covid-19 vaccination.

In their findings, published in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, the team identify several factors associated with likelihood of accepting a Covid-19 vaccine. People who had been vaccinated for flu last year were more likely to intend to be vaccinated for coronavirus, as were older people, people with more positive vaccination beliefs and attitudes, and people who perceived a greater risk from Covid-19.

Maximising the uptake of a coronavirus vaccine

Joint first author Dr Sue Sherman, from Keele University’s School of Psychology, said: “The scale and impact of Covid-19 are such that when a vaccine becomes available, we need to ensure that uptake is maximised in order to contain the mounting social and economic costs associated with the virus. 

“Despite the pandemic nature and severity of Covid-19, high vaccine uptake cannot be assumed for various reasons, including something called the intention-behaviour gap. For instance, uptake of the H1N1 vaccine following the 2009 swine flu pandemic was poor in many countries. 

“The highly contagious nature of Covid-19 means that once a vaccine becomes available, ensuring a good uptake will play an important role in reducing unnecessary deaths. In order to maximise the uptake of the coronavirus vaccine, campaigns to support vaccination programmes overall, including for other routine vaccination programmes such as the annual winter flu programme, will need to be in place.”

Factors associated with an intention to be vaccinated 

Joint first author Dr Louise Smith, from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit for Emergency Preparedness and Response at King’s College London, said: “We found that almost two thirds of the general population said that they would be likely to be vaccinated for coronavirus when a vaccine became available. Intention to be vaccinated was associated with having had a flu vaccine last year, having positive attitudes towards vaccination generally, and thinking that a coronavirus vaccine would be safe. This is similar to what we see for uptake of other routine vaccinations.”

Implications of this study for implementing a vaccination programme 

Co-author, Professor Nick Sevdalis, from the Centre for Implementation Science at King’s College London and the NIHR ARC South London’s deputy co-lead, said: “Having a good grasp of how people view a vaccine and the process of vaccination is critical in informing public health campaigns and immunisation programme implementation.

"This study suggests that the majority of the public have an overall positive perception of a Covid-19 vaccination. In practice, this means that policymakers can prioritise developing a delivery mechanism for the vaccination programme to reach all those who need it, rather than worry about people’s concerns around the vaccination – at least for now.” 

In the study, older participants expressed a significantly higher intention to have a Covid-19 vaccine. "This is understandable in light of the coverage of the substantially worse impact Covid-19 has had on older people," said Professor Sevdalis.  

We did not find any other associations between demographic characteristics and intention to be vaccinated. However, it is important to explore whether such associations might exist. Different research methods, such as in-depth interviews, can be used to explore causes of concern around vaccines within areas or communities.

Nick Sevdalis

Professor Nick Sevdalis

Understanding more about people’s attitudes to vaccination 

A research assistant on the study was Hannah Dasch, an MSc psychology student at the University of Trier, Germany, who is working on her thesis at the Centre for Implementation Science.

Hannah said: “This study is very much in line with my MSc research, which is investigating people’s attitudes towards vaccination, specifically influenza vaccination in Asian-Pacific countries. I’m trying to understand the underlying socio-psychological (primarily attitudinal) factors that influence whether a person decides to get vaccinated against the flu or not. It was a great experience for me to work on this topical and important issue, with a team of highly skilled and experienced researchers.”