Putting our faith in the vaccine

Will safety concerns deter some from having the jab?

The nation firmly back in lockdown, hospitals overcrowded with staff stressed and exhausted, increasing fears that the entire NHS is on the verge of collapse – coronavirus, with its new and even more contagious variants, continues to wreak havoc in the UK. The post-Christmas surge in the rate of infection and the climbing death rate only increased a growing sense of panic, but the swift development and roll-out of vaccines is now raising hope that this terrifying virus will eventually be brought under control so that some form of normality can gradually return.

The vaccines were authorised by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency after rigorous clinical trials. This saw a swift but thorough review of all the scientific and clinical data and stringent product sampling, testing and manufacturing quality controls. Both the Government and their medical advisors have assured us that the vaccines are safe, and millions are now lining up for and receiving vaccinations. Even the Queen and Prince Philip have had their jabs. Thousands, though, are choosing not to be vaccinated. For despite continued and repeated reassurances, the speed at which these new drugs have been produced means that there will always be doubters as to their safety, especially their long-term safety. And as there has been literally no time to test for long-term safety, this has to be accepted as a valid concern. Realistically, achieving universal public trust in times such as these is almost impossible, particularly when you add in the fact that recent studies have shown a clear link between coronavirus conspiracy theories, of which there remain many, and doubts about vaccines. And there are other unanswered, and at this stage, unanswerable questions.

Assuming the vaccines are safe, how long will they remain effective? Will the coronavirus vaccine, like the flu vaccine, have to become an annual jab? Or might we need booster jabs at various times? Coronavirus will not be going away any time soon, so arguments will continue to rage and “experts” will continue to be wheeled out onto our television screens and, potentially more provocatively, online.

The majority will argue for vaccination but some will argue against. Ultimately, the choice for or against remains a personal one. We all, of course, want to get it right – it may be a matter of life or death.

What our surveys show 

Overall, the country appears prepared to put its faith in the vaccines now available, with 62% of us either “fairly unconcerned” or “not at all concerned” about their safety. But there remains a significant minority, 28%, who do have vaccination concerns, responding that they were either “fairly concerned” or “highly concerned” about the vaccines’ safety. A further 10% said they “don’t know” how they feel about the issue of vaccine safety. In our second survey question, those who would have a coronavirus vaccination made up a healthy majority. A total of 64% said they were either “fairly likely” or “very likely” to take the jab, while 25% said they were “very unlikely” or “fairly unlikely” to accept the vaccination. Our third survey question proved a closer issue. Whilst a total of 46% said they would support compulsory vaccination against Covid-19, a total of 38% would oppose it. A potentially game changing 16% stated that they didn’t know. There were interesting generational differences in the answers to all three of our survey questions, with Millennials having the most concern over vaccine safety and Traditionals most in favour of vaccinations.

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