Vials with a sticker reading, "Covid-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a British flag in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Almost two-thirds of people in Britain say they would get vaccinated for Covid-19 but young people are far more likely to refuse a jab than older people, according to an opinion poll published today (Nov 11).

Under new laws announced by the government recently, a wider range of healthcare workers – including pharmacists – will be allowed to deliver Covid-19 vaccines. GPs are expected to play the lead role in a vaccination drive which health secretary Matt Hancock has called a “mammoth logistical operation”.

The opinion poll, by public opinion research firm Kantar, showed 22 per cent of respondents saying they would definitely or probably not get a coronavirus vaccine, rising to 38 per cent of 18-24 year-olds.

Only 5 per cent of those aged 65 and over and 16 per cent of those aged 55-64 said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated.

Kantar said the poll found that 75 per cent of people with a degree-level of education planned to get the vaccine compared with 57 per cent of people without one.

Hancock said on Tuesday that vaccinations for Covid-19 will be optional.

‘Vaccine mistrust will undermine efforts to tackle pandemic’

Meanwhile, an 80 per cent uptake of a Covid-19 vaccine may be needed to protect communities from the novel coronavirus, but volatile levels of misinformation and vaccine mistrust could undermine efforts to tackle the pandemic, British scientists said on Tuesday.

A report by scientific institutions – the British Academy and the Royal Society – found that, in part due to circulating misinformation and behavioural factors, around 36 per cent of people in Britain say they are either uncertain or very unlikely to agree to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

It said an “open dialogue” is critical to building public support for Covid-19 vaccination, and called for a “frank conversation” to manage public expectations that life will not immediately get back to normal when vaccines arrive.

“Vaccines and vaccination are two very different things. To achieve the estimated 80% of uptake of a vaccine required for community protection, we need a serious, well-funded and community-based public engagement strategy,” said Melinda Mills, an Oxford University professor and expert in demographic science who led the report.

Opinion polls carried out before and during the Covid-19 pandemic across many countries show that confidence in vaccines is volatile, and that political polarization and online misinformation are likely to affect rates of uptake.

“We must learn from lessons of history and move away from the one-way provision of information and instead generate an open dialogue that addresses misinformation and does not dismiss people’s real vaccine concerns and hesitancy,” Mills said.

The report also said governments should plan now for a “phased and ethical” vaccine deployment based on transparent principles that are “sufficiently debated with the public to build understanding”.

It recommended priority groups should include health and care workers and other high-risk occupations such as teachers, bus drivers and retail workers, as well as vulnerable groups in crowded situations such as the homeless and people in prisons.

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