GPs urged to repeat COVID-19 vaccine offers as study shows fall in hesitancy

GPs have been urged to offer COVID-19 jabs again to patients who have previously refused, after a study suggested vaccine hesitancy has declined sharply since December.

GPs urged to call again with COVID-19 jab offer (Photo: Getty Images)
GPs urged to call again with COVID-19 jab offer (Photo: Getty Images)

Research by the University College London (UCL) Virus Watch study found that more than four in five people who were unsure or said no to a jab in December 2020 would now accept one, or had already been vaccinated.

The fall in vaccine hesitancy was ‘consistent across all ethnic groups’, the study found. Among adults who had previously refused or been unsure about COVID-19 vaccination, 90% from south Asian ethnic backgrounds, 88% from black ethnic backgrounds and 87% from white British ethnic backgrounds who had previously refused a jab were now willing to have one or had already done so.

Data from NHS England last month showed lower uptake of COVID-19 vaccine among people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups. The UCL study found that the 'association between ethnicity and vaccination intention has weakened, but not disappeared, over time'.

COVID-19 vaccination

Researchers found that finding that 25- to 35-year-olds were almost nine times more likely to think about refusing a COVID-19 jab compared to people aged over 75.

The study also revealed the reduction in hesitancy towards COVID-19 vaccination was fairly consistent across people from all levels of social deprivation, ranging from 79% in more deprived areas to 89% in the least deprived areas.

Last December, 89% of participants overall in the UCL study said they would accept a COVID-19 vaccine if offered, while 9% were ‘unsure’ and 2% said they would refuse it. In February 38% of participants said they had already had a COVID-19 vaccine and 59% said they would accept one if offered - with just 1% saying they would not accept and a further 1% unsure.

The study found that older adults in England and Wales were less likely to have concerns about safety of the vaccine, and more likely to be concerned about contracting COVID-19 than people in younger age groups.

BAME patients

Concerns about vaccine safety and effectiveness were lower among people of white British ethnicity compared to participants from most minority ethnic backgrounds, but concerns about catching COVID-19 or becoming ill did not differ by ethnicity.

Co-lead investigator of the UCL Virus Watch study Professor Rob Aldridge said: ‘More and more people in the UK want to get vaccinated. Our work shows the importance of making repeated offers of the vaccine because so many people have changed their mind in recent months.

‘Getting vaccinated should be made as easy as possible over the coming months with clear information and advice provided by trusted community leaders including younger adults as they become eligible for vaccination.’

CCGs with low uptake of COVID-19 vaccine in ethnic minority, marginalised or deprived communities were supported to boost uptake through a £4.2m NHS fund in February.

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