COVID vaccine passports may discourage people from getting their jab - UK survey


A COVID-19 vaccine sticker

Requiring people to be vaccinated for certain activities like going on holiday abroad may drive greater COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in some.

This is according to new data from a recent UK survey led by Imperial College London and YouGov, which has been tracking attitudes towards coronavirus vaccination since January 2021. The latest survey, which ran in late August, found that half or more of unvaccinated people aged 40 and above said that they would be less likely to take up their vaccination offer if a certificate was needed for international travel, recreational activities or going to work.

"Initiatives aimed at boosting vaccination rates are more likely to be successful if people’s differing views are considered and used to tailor campaigns." Melanie Leis Institute of Global Health Innovation

The report from the College’s Institute of Global Health Innovation found that across all age groups, 20% or fewer said such requirements would make them more likely to get vaccinated. In contrast, unvaccinated younger participants (aged 18-29) appeared more indifferent, with over half stating that vaccination passports for recreational activities or going abroad wouldn’t change their likelihood of getting vaccinated.

Among all unvaccinated respondents, the youngest age group were also most undecided in terms of trust in vaccines, with half responding ‘Don’t know’ when asked which coronavirus vaccine they trusted the most. This compares with 16% of those aged 40+, and 32% of those aged 30-39. Younger participants were also the least likely to state a reason as to why they had not been vaccinated.

Conversely, of those who had not been vaccinated, the oldest age group reported the highest levels of mistrust of vaccines, with almost two-thirds (62%) saying that they don’t trust any of the vaccines listed (AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sputnik V).

Melanie Leis, project co-lead and Director of the Big Data and Analytical Unit at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, said: “Our findings suggest that older people who have not been vaccinated may hold strong views against vaccines, while responses from younger unvaccinated people suggest disinterest and a lack of engagement in the issue.

“This has implications for the planning and implementation of initiatives aimed to boost vaccination rates, which are more likely to be successful if people’s differing views are considered and used to tailor campaigns to the needs of different groups.”

Vaccination certification

The COVID-19 vaccines approved in the UK have been shown to be very safe and effective at reducing the risk of infection, serious illness and death from the coronavirus. The UK’s vaccination programme has been highly successful, with 81% of people aged 16 and above having been fully vaccinated as of 14 September. Yet the rate of vaccine uptake has slowed in recent months, particularly among younger adults.

Plans for vaccine passports for large events in England were recently scrapped, although Scotland will introduce the measure from 1 October and in Wales a decision has yet to be made.

To explore people’s attitudes towards vaccine certification and COVID-19 vaccination in general, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of over 1,100 people in the UK between 23-29 August.

Trust in vaccines

Carried out with contribution from the WHO working group on measuring behavioural and social drivers of COVID-19 vaccination, the findings show that trust in coronavirus vaccines is high across all age groups, with under 10% reporting ‘no trust at all’. The oldest age group were most trusting, with just 4% of people stating they didn’t trust the vaccines at all. This age group has consistently been the most confident of vaccines throughout the study.

When asked about their concerns over vaccines, across all age groups the most common worries were potential side effects or a perceived lack of testing. The younger age groups (18-39) were also twice as likely to report these concerns compared to the over 40s.

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.

Download the report here.

Researchers can access the anonymised data through GitHub by clicking here.


Justine Alford

Justine Alford
Institute of Global Health Innovation

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