Hesitancies around taking a Covid-19 vaccine stems from a gap in knowledge or awareness of the benefits, new research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found.
Researchers at the ESRI’s behavioural research unit tested the knowledge and surveyed the attitudes of a nationally representative sample of the adult population in January this year to find a clear gap in knowledge and awareness between those who were willing to take the vaccine and those who were not.
Participants were asked what they thought about the vaccine, how much they knew about it, what they saw as the greatest risks and benefits, and whether they planned to take it.
Through a multiple-choice quiz, participants were also tested on what they knew about the effectiveness of the vaccine, the development process, side-effects and, whether they would have to pay out-of-pocket for it.
Those planning to take the vaccine scored on average 67%, compared with 50% for those who were unsure, and 37% not planning to take it, the study, funded by the Department of Health, found.
Of those planning to take the vaccine, 91% cited at least one benefit, which compared to 50% of those who were unsure and 5% of those not planning to take the vaccine.
The research also found that the less people followed news coverage about Covid-19, the less likely they were to want to take the vaccine.
“These results suggest that some people who are unsure about taking the Covid-19 vaccine may not know enough about it,” lead researcher Dr Deirdre Robertson, said, adding that providing factual information may help to bridge the knowledge gap.
Head of the behavioural research unit Professor Pete Lunn, said the number of people wishing to take the vaccine had “risen steadily” since the research was carried out but it may take longer to bridge the knowledge gap among a “minority”.
The research comes as HSE boss Paul Reid said the vaccination programme was being stepped up to ward off the threat posed by the more infectious Delta variant.
The variant, which is now dominant in the UK and has delayed reopening plans there, requires two vaccine doses for protection.
Mr Reid signalled that about 450,000 people requiring a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will get it by July 19, after the interval period between doses was reduced to eight weeks.
This week, the Government introduced rules requiring travellers from Britain to isolate for 10 days given the threat posed by the Delta variant.
Meanwhile public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally said the Delta variant growth rate in the UK – more than 54,000 new cases in the past week – was now leading to about four hospital admissions for every 100 cases.
“It’s a growth rate that is really worrying and that has fed through into hospital admissions,” he told a seminar hosted by the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group.
“The real fear lurking in the background is that we don’t get the virus sufficiently under control to safeguard ourselves from a new variant popping up,” he added.