Almost 70% of UK adults would accept approved Covid-19 vaccine but fears deter others, ITV News poll finds

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks

Almost 70% of people in the UK would be likely to receive a vaccination against Covid-19 once one has been approved by regulators, a poll conducted for ITV News has found.

Some two-in-three (67%) of respondents said they would be either "likely" or "very likely" to receive the vaccine if it were voluntary, however, if the inoculation was to be made compulsory, this figure fell to 65%.

A further 23% of respondents replied that they would be unlikely to voluntarily receive an approved vaccine, while 10% of people said they were undecided.

The survey was carried out by Savanta ComRes on behalf of ITV News between November 20 and 22, before the news on Wednesday that the Pfizer/BioNTech has been approved for use in the UK and vaccinations could begin next week for the most vulnerable, with a mass rollout continuing into 2021.

Some 2,090 UK adults aged over-18 were polled online and the data has been weighted to be demographically representative of the UK's adult population by age, gender, region, and other socio-economic characteristics including social grade.

At the time of the survey, both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccine trials had posted positive results, with both showing at least 90% effectiveness.

On November 23, a day after the poll had closed, Oxford and AstraZeneca reported its trials showed up to 90% effectiveness.

If the Moderna and Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccines are also approved by the UK's regulator, immunisations of these could begin this side of the new year.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks explains what the poll found

Despite the apparent willingness of the majority of people to get vaccinated, there were great discrepancies between age groups.

Almost one-third (31%) of young adults aged 18-34 said they would be unlikely to receive a vaccine, in contrast to just one in seven (14%) of adults aged over-55.

The most common response at 44% of those who said they were "reluctant" to receive a Covid-19 was that they are scared of the potential side-effects, while 31% said they don't trust pharmaceutical companies.

However, almost one-in-five (19%) said they avoid vaccinations altogether, while almost one-in-eight (12%) said they would be reluctant to be vaccinated due to a belief “that vaccinations contain microchips or other devices".

ITV News put the findings of the poll to England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam who dismissed rumours of microchips implanted into the jab, saying even raising it as a question was "not sensible".

Yet when responses were broken down by gender, women were significantly more likely to say their reluctance was due to a fear of potential side effects than men - 53% against 35%.

In contrast, men are more likely to say they are reluctant because they believe Covid-19 is a hoax (14% v 7%) or because of their religious beliefs (10% v 2%).

None of the three vaccines - Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna or Oxford and AstraZeneca - have given trial participants more than mild side effects and this is something the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will look at closely.

ITV News put the findings of the poll to England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam who said the MHRA will look for "safety, for effectiveness and quality" in any vaccine it approves.

He continued that the main side effect he was aware of with the vaccines was a "sore arm" after inoculation.

"The data I've seen so far suggests that the side effects are pretty mild compared to the side effects of Covid-19 in a vulnerable person," he told ITV News.

"All you got to do is look at some TV footage of vulnerable people, stuck on ICU, stuck inside oxygen, bubbles, and being critically ill for many periods of time, having to say goodbye to their loved ones before they go into hospital.

"That's, you know, that's the real side effect of Covid-19."

The urgency of the need to find a vaccine for coronavirus means that while it normally takes years for a jab to be developed, we could have more than one approved in less than a year.

However, any vaccine we get will still have to pass through all the regular checks and approvals, and the speed at which they are being developed is largely due to the huge amounts of money being invested from governments and private donors worldwide.

Just 47% of respondents to the ITV News poll said they were "comfortable" with the speed at which any approved vaccine would have been created, checked and distributed.

Some 23% of participants said they were "uncomfortable" with the time frame, while 24% said they were "neither comfortable nor uncomfortable" and 5% said they "don't know".

Men were significantly more comfortable than women with the faster pace of vaccine creation (55% v 40%), as were those who get their Covid news from the mainstream media rather than social media (52% v 47%).

The over-55s were also much more comfortable (56%) with the faster pace than those aged under-55 (42.5%).

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in the UK. Credit: PA

The main concern of those who were "uncomfortable" with the time frame was a worry that "working faster may mean that mistakes were made", with almost two-in-three (65%) citing this as a worry.

Just over half (51%) were also worried that people will have "insufficient information prior to vaccines".

Prof Van-Tam who said that although the process had been speeded up, "the corners have not been cut on the actual size of the studies and the way in which the regulators will sit down and look at the data at the end".

He continued that the different studies had been sending their findings to the MHRA "week on week, month on month" so that they could be assessed in real time, rather than sending a "lorry load of paperwork" or "vaccine dossier" once the trial was finished.

Professor Van-Tam explained this meant "there isn't this backlog of paperwork and studies to examine at the very end. And that's another way in which we've saved time without cutting corners."

He added that one of the very issue which has made Covid-19 a huge issue worldwide - the high numbers of people contracting the respiratory disease - large numbers of people can take part in trials at once.

"Because coronavirus has just ravaged its way around the world, and the manufacturers have placed trials all over the world, Brazil, South Africa, UK, because of that, they've got the case numbers.

"They need to do the readout on effectiveness very, very quickly indeed.

"So it's partly sad that we've got to the results so fast because it means we've had so much disease around in the world, but it is good from the point of view of vaccine development that these trials have moved very fast, just because of case numbers."

While mainstream news outlets were the most common source for respondents to get their Covid information on the whole, those aged 18-34 were almost as likely to use social media - Facebook at 17% and YouTube at 17% - as they were mainstream news sources at 18%.

Ethnic minority respondents were significantly less likely to use government briefings to learn about Covid-19 than white adults (18% v 31%) and were instead more likely to use Facebook (15% v 11%), YouTube (21% v 7%), Twitter (13% v 6%) or online forums (10% v 4%).

However, across the board, trust in the NHS is high at 72%, but again there were significant drop-offs in age and ethnicity.

Older adults aged over-55 are significantly more likely to trust the NHS than younger adults aged 18-34 (86% v 58%).

Similarly, white adults are significantly more likely to trust the adults from ethnic minorities (76% v 53%).

While a Covid vaccine is now a reality, it will not mean an immediate return to life as we knew it.

However, Professor Van-Tam was optimistic before the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved, saying: "We are at the very beginning of what I think, what I hope, will be a journey that takes us into a different place, by late spring."

Why you can't compare vaccines but Oxford's is cause for celebration: Listen to ITV News's coronavirus podcast