ISSN 2330-717X

Rising Vaccine Hesitancy Threatening COVID-19 Recovery

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In a World Economic Forum/Ipsos survey of 18,526 adults from 15 countries, only 73% say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if available – down 4 points since August.

This latest survey shows a growing reluctance to receive a vaccine, despite progress made by numerous pharmaceutical companies working on vaccine trials and international organizations like World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi and CEPI working to ensure any future solution is available for those most in need.

Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, at the World Economic Forum said, “This drop in vaccine confidence is a remarkable and sad trend as we edge closer to a possible vaccine roll-out. The numbers are significant enough to compromise the effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine to manage the disease and to see an end to the cycle of new lockdowns and restrictions. It is critical that governments and the private sector come together to build trust in the next steps. It’s important to know that when a vaccine is ready, it will make a difference.”

Data from 3 months ago revealed that across 15 countries, 77% of adults strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement “if a vaccine for COVID-19 were available, I would get it”.  At the time, the shortfall in vaccine confidence was significant enough to be seen to compromise the effectiveness of seeing an end to the pandemic. Now, this figure has dropped.

Since August, vaccination intent has declined in 10 of the 15 countries, most of all China, Australia, Spain, and Brazil. More than four in five in India, China, South Korea, and Brazil say they would get a vaccine if available – compared to just over half in France and about two in three in the US, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Japan, and Germany.

Reasons for not taking a vaccine

In nearly equal proportions, those who do not intend to take a vaccine for COVID-19 say that they are worried about the side effects (34% globally) and that they are worried that a vaccine is moving through clinical trials too fast (33%).

Fewer say they don’t think the vaccine will be effective (10%), they are against vaccines in general (10%), and that the risk they’ll get COVID-19 is too low (8%). 

Concern about side effects is highest in Japan (62%) and China (46%). Worry that the clinical trials are rushed is highest in Brazil and Spain (48% in both). General opposition to vaccines in general among those who won’t get one is highest in South Africa (21%) and India (19%).

Time to vaccination

The survey also questions how soon after a vaccine becomes available would people get one. Nearly half of adults globally say they would get vaccinated within three months after the COVID-19 vaccine is available to all.More than two thirds would do so in Mexico (71%), Brazil (68%), and China (68%), but fewer than four in 10 in France and Spain (38% both). 

As many as 90% in China and 86% in South Korea say they would get vaccinated with the first year of the Covid-19 vaccine’s availability, compared to just 54% in France.

WHO named public hesitancy towards vaccination as one of the Top 10 Threats to Global Health in 2019, affecting not only public health, but businesses and economies.

“Public-private cooperation is critical to building trust in next steps,” Bernaert said. “While the numbers in this latest study show there is more confidence than not in a COVID-19 vaccine, the rising hesitancy is material and highlights that a vaccine won’t work if people don’t take it.”

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