Research from Bradford suggests that those who need the COVID-19 vaccination the most may be less likely to accept it

In the UK, the newly available COVID-19 vaccines are seen as the route out of the current pandemic and a solution to stop the NHS becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks and months. However, this will only be the case if those most at risk of becoming severely ill are happy to receive the vaccine. National research to date has found that between 54% and 64% of respondents are very likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine. However there are indications that people from ethnic minority backgrounds and those living in deprived communities may be less likely to accept the vaccine. If this is the case, and up-take is low in those who need it the most, then the vaccine will not be the golden solution it is hoped to be.

The Bradford COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group has explored COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the city of Bradford - an ethnically diverse community with areas of high deprivation.

We carried out a survey with parents in the Born in Bradford cohort study and found a much lower level of vaccine acceptability: overall, 29% said they did want the vaccine, 10% said they did not want the vaccine, 32% were not sure, and 29% said they had not yet thought about it. As shown in Figure 1, levels of vaccine acceptability varied by ethnicity, where people lived and how much they trust the NHS. White British parents were three times more likely than parents of Pakistani heritage and two times more likely than other ethnic groups to say they would accept a vaccine. Three in five parents living in the least deprived areas said they would accept the vaccine, compared to just one in five in the most deprived. Trust in the NHS was also a factor in people’s views; those who didn’t trust the NHS were much more likely to say they did not want the vaccine. Concerns about vaccine safety, side effects, it being rushed and a lack of evidence of efficacy all contributed to the uncertainty people felt about the vaccine.

Alongside this work we carried out a focused qualitative study on health beliefs and experiences during COVID-19 with 20 Bradford residents. Participants described the distress, confusion and mistrust caused by their exposure to an avalanche of information about COVID-19, particularly misinformation spread on social media. We found that trust in government, the health service and traditional media had been negatively impacted by this ‘infodemic’, and that this was contributing to participants’ uncertainty about the safety and efficacy of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

This research has helped us identify that the spread of misinformation and vaccine hesitancy poses a particular threat to the recovery from the pandemic: those at most risk of becoming severely ill from the virus may be less likely to accept the vaccine.

We know that a lot of work is being done in local communities to address this imbalance. However, is it clear that more must be done to intervene quickly and provide clear and reassuring communication around the vaccine. Messaging should be targeted and empathetic, acknowledging the distress and confusion people feel. There may also be value in offering vaccination in other locations (e.g. schools or religious settings) for those who trust the NHS less.

This blog was written by Dr Bridget Lockyer and Dr Josie Dickerson, Early Life and Prevention Theme, Yorkshire and Humber ARC.

The findings from both of the studies discussed are available here: https://www.bradfordresearch.nhs.uk/c-sag/.

22nd January 2021