Research sheds new light on vaccine hesitancy in Ireland and the UK

May 04 2021 Posted: 09:46 IST

Young women least likely to say Yes to a Covid-19 vaccine 

Young women are significantly less likely to say they would accept a Covid-19 vaccine, new research from a joint Irish-UK project has revealed.

The vaccine hesitancy study carried out by NUI Galway, in collaboration with University of Huddersfield, England, canvassed the views of 1,000 people online in Ireland and the UK, recording their attitudes and intentions in relation to Covid-19 vaccination programmes.
Findings from the research are to be presented this month to the Behavioural Change Subgroup that advises the Government’s National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
Dr Jane Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Director of the Mobile Technology and Health (mHealth) Research Group at NUI Galway, said: “Understanding vaccine hesitancy is key to addressing public concerns, promoting confidence and increasing vaccine uptake.” 

The research revealed:

:: 75% of those who participated in the survey intend to get a Covid-19 vaccine; 11% said they would not; and 14% said they were unsure. 

:: Women and younger people were significantly less likely to report intention to avail of a Covid-19 vaccine.

:: Women aged under 30 were significantly less likely to say they would accept a Covid-19 vaccine, with fewer than 70% indicating a positive response and 20% indicating high levels of uncertainty. 

Dr Walsh said: “It is possible, that one of the reasons behind young women’s reluctance to signal an intention to get a Covid-19 vaccine is related to issues around fertility and this warrants further investigation."

The survey revealed that peer influences are strongly associated with young women’s intentions on vaccination. 

Dr Walsh said: “This influence was particularly strong in the ‘no’ and ‘unsure’ group. These findings suggest that messages that are channelled through relevant social influencers may have a significant impact on vaccine uptake. It is also concerning that those who vote ‘no’ to the vaccine have a lower sense of civic responsibility. But what is clear, in general, is that there is still a high level of uncertainty around Covid-19 vaccination.” 

To date, there have been almost 250,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland while more than 1 million people have had a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. In the UK there have been more than 4.4 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and more than 34 million people have had a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. 
The research team cautioned that positive attitudes towards vaccination are far less likely to be driven by fear messaging but rather by developing a stronger message of trust in the government and authorities.

Dr Susie Kola-Palmer, University of Huddersfield, co-leader on the research project, said: “We can shift attitudes and intentions to Covid-19 vaccine from ‘unsure’ to ‘yes’ if public health campaigns provide clear messages about the benefits, as well as clear information on the low risks associated with having the vaccine and promote a positive sense of civic responsibility.

“Trust in authorities is a significant barrier among people who have no intention of being vaccinated. Public health experts and governments should consider strategies to address this. Personalised messaging needs to be targeted at young people, and women in particular, to address their concerns. And it needs to be made a priority.” 

The study also found that people were more likely to signal intention to get a vaccine if they had a higher trust in authorities; high satisfaction with government response to the pandemic; and if they were more likely to adhere to public health guidelines in general. 


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