Public decisions about COVID-19 vaccines: A UK-based qualitative study

PLoS One. 2023 Mar 6;18(3):e0277360. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277360. eCollection 2023.


OBJECTIVE: To explore UK public decisions around whether or not to get COVID-19 vaccines, and the facilitators and barriers behind participants’ decisions.

DESIGN: This qualitative study consisted of six online focus groups conducted between 15th March and 22nd April 2021. Data were analysed using a framework approach.

SETTING: Focus groups took place via online videoconferencing (Zoom).

PARTICIPANTS: Participants (n = 29) were a diverse group (by ethnicity, age and gender) UK residents aged 18 years and older.

RESULTS: We used the World Health Organization’s vaccine hesitancy continuum model to look for, and explore, three main types of decisions related to COVID-19 vaccines: vaccine acceptance, vaccine refusal and vaccine hesitancy (or vaccine delay). Two reasons for vaccine delay were identified: delay due to a perceived need for more information and delay until vaccine was “required” in the future. Nine themes were identified: three main facilitators (Vaccination as a social norm; Vaccination as a necessity; Trust in science) and six main barriers (Preference for “natural immunity”; Concerns over possible side effects; Perceived lack of information; Distrust in government;; Conspiracy theories; “Covid echo chambers”) to vaccine uptake.

CONCLUSION: In order to address vaccine uptake and vaccine hesitancy, it is useful to understand the reasons behind people’s decisions to accept or refuse an offer of a vaccine, and to listen to them and engage with, rather than dismiss, these reasons. Those working in public health or health communication around vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, in and beyond the UK, might benefit from incorporating the facilitators and barriers found in this study.

PMID:36877671 | PMC:PMC9987765 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0277360


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