The vast majority of people in the UK and US would donate their COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to poor countries if a test showed they didn’t need it.
This is according to a new Imperial College London report, based on nationally representative survey data collected from almost 3,500 people in June. Booster doses are those given to people already fully vaccinated as a way to enhance immunity to the disease.
In the UK, 78% said they’d be willing to donate their booster dose if a coronavirus antibody test showed that it wasn’t needed, with 69% in the US willing to do so.
"We urgently need strategies to help poorer nations where far fewer people have access to these life-saving vaccines." Prof Ara Darzi Institute of Global Health Innovation
The survey, led by the College’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) in partnership with YouGov, asked people whether they’d be willing to take a finger-prick test, also called a Lateral Flow Test, to check for coronavirus antibodies. The body produces antibodies after infection and vaccination, and it’s thought that people with detectable antibodies to the coronavirus may have protection from future illness.
Most respondents in both countries (81% in the UK and 64% in the US) said they would be willing to take a coronavirus antibody test at least once to find out how protected they might be from COVID-19.
Professor Ara Darzi, co-director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation, said: “Even the best vaccines will only be effective at curbing the virus if they reach enough arms, which means we urgently need strategies to help poorer nations where far fewer people have access to these life-saving vaccines. Antibody testing could play a role in improving the global distribution of vaccines by ensuring doses only go to those who need them.
“So it’s hugely encouraging to see from this data that the overwhelming majority of people surveyed in two countries – which have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world – would be willing to donate their doses if they weren’t needed.”
Tracking attitudes towards vaccines
The report is part of a major ongoing effort to monitor changing patterns of health-related behaviours and attitudes during the pandemic. Since April 2020 the researchers have surveyed more than half a million global citizens so that leaders can plan public health responses based on their country’s needs.
"We need to use all tools at our disposal, including antibody testing, and ensure that everyone in the world gets a vaccine." Gianluca Fontana Institute of Global Health Innovation
The most recent survey, carried out with contribution from the WHO working group on measuring behavioural and social drivers of COVID-19 vaccination, showed vaccination status impacted respondents’ willingness to donate their booster dose to people in poor countries, with unvaccinated people less happy to do so than those who had. Half of unvaccinated respondents in the US said they’d donate their booster if a test showed they didn’t need it, compared to 79% of vaccinated respondents. In the UK the figures were 79% and 74%, respectively.
Similarly, those who hadn’t been vaccinated were less willing to take an antibody test in both the UK and US.
In the UK, whether or not people had previously had COVID-19 didn’t influence their willingness to donate their booster vaccine. But in the US, those who hadn’t had COVID-19 were less willing than those who had (67% vs 76%).
Gianluca Fontana, Director of Operations at IGHI’s Centre for Health Policy, said: “Our report shows a remarkable level of public support for vaccine dose donations to people with limited access, which we hope will spur an appropriate and necessary response from policymakers globally. It is increasingly clear that achieving excellent immunisation rates at home will not be enough to defeat the virus. We need to use all tools at our disposal, including antibody testing, and ensure that everyone in the world gets a vaccine.”
Researchers can access the anonymised data through GitHub by clicking here.
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