More than half of the people in the UK who were firmly against getting vaccinated at around the time the first dose was administered have had a jab, a study has suggested.
Researchers at the University of Bristol and King’s College London also found that about one in seven of the staunchest sceptics who have yet to be vaccinated have changed their minds and intend to get the jab when offered it.
Dr Siobhan McAndrew, a senior lecturer in quantitative social science at Bristol, said the driving force behind the change of heart was often the “concrete benefits of being vaccinated in terms of being able to travel and to see family and friends again”.
She added: “Part of the rise in vaccine confidence relates to social proof: people feel more confident because they observe others taking their vaccine with confidence.
“The first people to be vaccinated were the oldest generations, who have a strong sense of civic obligation, and they helped set the norm that you should take up your vaccine when it is your turn. This encouraged others to move from saying they were fairly likely to accept the vaccine, to either accepting it or saying they were certain to do so.”
The researchers also found that of those who deemed themselves “not very” or “not at all likely” to accept a vaccine when asked in November and December last year, 84% had since got vaccinated.
“Some people who were positive in principle were waiting and seeing – and their confidence has been strengthened by the evidence that the vaccine is safe and effective,” McAndrew said. “Others had not made up their mind when asked in early winter. Over the course of the vaccine rollout, they have increasingly been persuaded that taking it was the right thing to do. For some, actually being invited helped them make up their mind.”
But, while the data suggests people are becoming more comfortable with the idea of getting vaccinated, the researchers cautioned against being complacent. They pointed to large disparities along racial and religious lines.
The study suggests white people tend to be less hesitant to get the jab than people from minority ethnic backgrounds, with the researchers partly blaming some people’s past negative experiences with healthcare. The researchers did not break down the data so that different minority ethnic groups could be analysed individually.
Ipsos Mori interviewed a sample of 4,896 adults aged 16-75 in the United Kingdom between 1 and 16 April 2021, and 4,860 adults between 21 November and 22 December 2020.