Health and Healthcare Systems

Confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine grows in UK and US, but global concerns about side effects are on the rise

Specialist doctor Mervi Mendiluce receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from nurse Maarit Mukkala at the Tampere University Hospital, in Tampere, Finland, December 28, 2020.

Specialist doctor Mervi Mendiluce receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease vaccine from nurse Maarit Mukkala in Finland, December 28, 2020. Image: via REUTERS

Kirsten Salyer
Head of Editorial Strategy and Thought Leadership, World Economic Forum LLC
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COVID-19

  • The latest World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey on vaccine confidence shows that strong intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has risen in the UK and the US, two countries where vaccines have started to be administered.
  • However, vaccine confidence has dropped in most other countries surveyed.
  • The main reason people say they would not get a COVID-19 vaccine is concern about side effects.

The first COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered around the world, offering hope that an end to the pandemic could be in sight.

Yet challenges to ensuring an inclusive, effective distribution of the vaccines remain. Even in countries where vaccines stand to increasingly be available to wider sections of the population, one hurdle will be public resistance to vaccination.

The latest World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey on vaccine confidence offers an optimistic sign that attitudes toward vaccines could change. According to the survey, strong intent to be vaccinated has risen in the US and the UK, following the release of the vaccine in the two countries.

At the same time, vaccine confidence has dropped in many other countries, according to the 15-country survey conducted 17-20 December among 13,500 adults.

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Vaccine confidence around the world

According to the survey, vaccination intent is highest in China, where 80% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement “if a vaccine for COVID-19 were available, I would get it.”

Countries with fairly high intent include Brazil (78%), the UK (77%), Mexico (77%), Australia (75%) and South Korea (75%).

Among the countries surveyed, those whose populations reported the lowest intent were South Africa (53%), Russia (43%) and France (40%).

Image: World Economic Forum-IPSOS

Changes in vaccine confidence

Since October, the percentage of respondents who strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement “if a vaccine for COVID-19 were available, I would get it” has increased in the US by 5 points.

At the same time, it has dropped across all the other countries surveyed, with the most notable declines in South Africa (-15 points), France (-14), Japan (-9) and South Korea (-8). December also marks the first time since August that overall vaccination confidence was below 50% in any country.

Looking just at those who strongly agree with the statement shows the US with an increase of 9 points (to 38%) and the UK with an increase in 5 points (to 46%). Of those countries showing a decline in those who strongly agree, none show a drop of more than 7 points.

Reasons for not wanting a vaccine

In every country surveyed, between 57% and 80% of those who say they would not take a COVID-19 vaccine report concern about the side effects (up from 34% in October).

This concern was highest in South Korea (80%), Japan (76%) and France (72%).

Image: World Economic Forum-IPSOS

The second-highest reason cited was effectiveness, with Russia showing the highest concern at 45%, followed by Mexico (28%) and Italy (27%).

The third-highest reason was not being enough at risk from COVID-19, seen most in China (32%), the UK (25%) and Canada (23%).

In 2019, the World Health Organisation listed public hesitancy towards vaccination as one of the Top 10 Threats to Global Health. This survey shows that more must be done to promote safe, inclusive distribution - and increase confidence in vaccines around the world.

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