More than half of people who said they would definitely not get a coronavirus vaccine last year have gone on to have the jab, researchers have found.
Some 52% of those who said they would not get a jab when asked in November and December 2020 have now done so, according to a study by King’s College London and the University of Bristol.
Among people who said they were not very or not at all likely to accept a vaccine when asked last year - 84% have since been vaccinated.
The data indicates many people’s hesitancy has waned since the vaccine rollout began six months ago, the researchers say.
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How did researchers find hesitancy had waned?
The study surveyed 4,896 UK adults aged 18 to 75 between April 1 and 16 this year, and tracked 1,879 people surveyed last year to see if and why their views had changed.
Researchers found that, overall, the public appear more likely to say they will get a Covid vaccine than they were last year.
Many who were previously sceptical now say they are very likely to or definitely will accept an offered vaccine, the research found.
Of those who said in November/December 2020 that they definitely would not get a vaccine, one in seven (15%) say they are now certain or very likely to do so.
This is also the case for 45% of those who said they were not at all likely to get vaccinated.
Did hesitancy decrease across the board?
No - scientists observed a “hardening” of views, with 9% of unvaccinated respondents saying they definitely will not get a jab when offered, compared with 4% of the public who said this in July 2020.
Vaccine confidence has doubled in ethnic minorities, from 36% saying they were certain or very likely to get jabbed in November/December to 72% now saying they are this likely to do so or have already had a jab.
And it has tripled in Muslims over the same period, from 23% to 67%.
The research found that more people have encountered messages encouraging them not to get vaccinated – 43% up from 35% in November/December.
Overall, 94% of those surveyed who had been offered a vaccine have taken it up.
Dr Siobhan McAndrew, senior lecturer in quantitative social science at the University of Bristol, said: “The high rates accepting the invitation to take up a vaccine are extremely encouraging.
“Convergence over time in vaccine confidence among members of different ethnic and religious groups provides evidence of a strong pro-vaccine norm.
“There is an apparently large difference in intention to get vaccinated between religious groups, with Muslims in particular standing out – but when we control for characteristics associated with religion, such as ethnicity, immigration status, social class and age, these differences are much reduced, suggesting that it’s not religious belief in itself that’s the driver.
“Nevertheless, the connections that the religiously-active have with religious peers, faith community leaders and with the NHS’s diverse workforce serve as a valuable communications resource.
“Tailored messaging via these channels will address specific community needs, reassure the cautious, and support vaccine confidence.”
NHS England director of health inequalities Dr Bola Owolabi said: “This latest study backs up data we have consistently seen since we launched the NHS action plan to tackle vaccine hesitancy several months ago, with uptake among ethnic minorities more than tripling between February and April and confidence in the vaccine growing by more than a fifth among all adults under 45.
“As the NHS vaccination programme opens up to the last remaining age groups, NHS teams across the country continue to make the vaccine easily accessible for all by jabbing at the more than 1,600 sites around the country, including sports stadiums, museums, places of worship, buses and pop-up clinics, as well as at local GPs and pharmacies, to ensure it is easily accessible for all.”