Almost one in three working-age adults surveyed in France have said they would refuse any COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new study.
While the findings were gathered back in June 2020 and it’s possible many people have changed their mind since the "first wave," the study does highlight how vaccine hesitancy could become a tricky hurdle in the global effort against COVID-19. The research does, however, also show that clearly communicating the benefits of herd immunity can help to persuade those that feel uncertain about vaccines.
In the new study published in The Lancet Public Health researchers from Bordeaux University Hospital, France, and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland asked nearly 2,000 people living in France aged between 18 to 64 years old about their views on the prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine using an online questionnaire completed in June 2020.
Around 71 percent of respondents said they would accept a vaccine depending on its characteristics, primarily its effectiveness and country of origin. The remaining 29 percent said they were outright opposed to being vaccinated against the virus.
Similar rates of vaccine hesitancy have also been noted in the US. Another new study found that more than a third of people in the US say they are either unlikely or hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.
“Our findings suggest that vaccine hesitancy, alongside other factors including limited vaccine supplies and the emergence of new COVID-19 strains, continues to pose major challenges to getting the pandemic under control,” Dr Michaël Schwarzinger, lead study author of Bordeaux University Hospital in France, said in a statement.
In the new study, hesitancy and outright refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 was more likely among women, people aged 25 to 54 years old, people with lower educational achievements, and people who have previously chosen not to receive other recommended vaccinations.
To better understand this sentiment, the team then asked the participants about their views on a range of hypothetical vaccines, which varied in their efficacy, risk of serious side effects, country of manufacturer, and site of vaccination.
People appeared to favor a vaccine created in the European Union, especially compared to one made in China. It was also clear people were more persuaded by a highly effective vaccine with an extremely low risk of side effects.
Crucially, some of the participants were randomly assigned to receive information about the collective benefits of herd immunity, the idea that a population can be protected from a disease if a sufficient proportion has become immune to the disease through a vaccine (or natural exposure). The results show that stressing the benefits of achieving herd immunity through a vaccine could help to reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
"Importantly, the study provides evidence to suggest that messages highlighting the benefits in terms of herd immunity might reduce hesitation about COVID-19 vaccines. This is an important finding that could guide communication to promote the vaccination campaign," Pierre Verger and Patrick Peretti-Watel from Observatoire Regional de la Santé Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Aix-Marseille University wrote in an accompanying comment article.
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