Data shows big rise in vaccine positivity but demographic disparities remain

ONS research finds 94% are happy to get immunised, but feelings toward the vaccine vary significantly when split by socio-economic group, age and ethnicity

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Government data has revealed that the UK has become significantly more positive about Covid-19 vaccines in recent weeks – but more than four in 10 black people are still hesitant about it, the highest of all ethnic groups.

The results of the latest sentiment study by the Office for National Statistics show 94% of people are happy to get a jab, up from 78% when they first collected data in mid-December last year.

Overall, between 13 January and 7 February 91% of adults reported “positive sentiment towards the vaccine”, while 9% of adults reported hesitancy.

But there are large variations when broken down by age, race and other factors, with 44% of black or black British adults repeatedly hesitant, compared with 8% of white people.

This is despite specific campaigns being launched encouraging BAME communities to get vaccinated, including a video featuring a number of celebrities broadcast simultaneously by every main broadcaster. In January, a number of black MPs from across political parties joined together for their own video encouraging others to get the jab.

It comes as the vaccine rollout continues apace, after two consecutive days of more than 400,000 first doses being delivered. The total number of people who have had a jab now stands at 22,213,112, and the NHS is now inviting those aged between 56 and 59 to book their vaccines.

The ONS data also reveals that around one in six (17%) adults aged 16 to 29 reported vaccine hesitancy, the highest of all age groups. The figure is just 1% in adults aged 70 and over, which is also the group who are most likely to have had a coronavirus jab in recent weeks.

For parents of a child under the age of 5, the ONS say 16% reported vaccine hesitancy, double the 8% of non-parents or parents not living with a dependent child.

Similarly, 16% of adults in the most deprived areas of England are hesitant compared with 7% in the least deprived areas.

The ONS said the top three reasons for reporting negative sentiment towards the vaccine are “side effects”, “long-term effects on health”, and “how well the vaccine works”, and were consistent across all population groups.

Tim Vizard, principal research officer at the ONS focusing on public policy analysis, said: “Over the past three months, we’ve seen people become increasingly positive about the Covid-19 vaccines, with over nine in ten adults saying they would have it if offered, or having already had it. Of those who are hesitant about receiving the vaccine, it’s younger and black adults who are most likely to say this, with concerns around side effects, long term effects and how well the vaccine works being the most common reasons.”

The figures also show double the amount of renters (15%) reported being vaccine hesitant than those who own their homes (7%).

Those on the lowest salaries – below £10,000 a year – are almost three times as likely to have “non-positive vaccine sentiment” than those earning more than £50,000.

But the ONS added it was “important to note that the associations between characteristics and vaccine hesitancy in this bulletin may not necessarily reflect a causal relationship”.

The region of England with the highest level of hesitancy is London at 13% – almost double the figure for the South West at 7%.


Sam Trendall

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