Up to one third of UK may refuse coronavirus vaccine

A new poll has revealed that nearly a third of people in the UK may not get a coronavirus vaccine if one is developed.

Carried out by YouGov, the poll of 1,663 adults shows that nearly one in five British adults say they would either probably or definitely refuse a vaccine, with a further 15 per cent unsure how they feel about it.

A coronavirus vaccine is widely regarded as the only way out of the pandemic, but scientists say that between 70 and 90 per cent of the population will have to get the new vaccine for it to be effective in stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Although it is difficult to give an exact figure on how many will need to get the vaccine, for measles, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that 95 per cent of the population get the jab.

Research suggests that the growing scepticism about a new vaccine comes after an explosion of ‘anti-vaxxer’ content online and in social media. The Center for Countering Digital Hate recently found that anti-vaccine social media pages and advocates have added 7.7 million more followers in the UK and United States since the outbreak of coronavirus. The organisation said that fringe groups were ‘preying’ on the uncertainty and fear around the pandemic to serve their own ends.  

In total, the pages have 57 million followers across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, and many more may have seen that content if users share it.

The research also indicates that those who get their information from social media rather than more traditional channels are more likely to be sceptical about vaccines, and suggested that the platforms are not doing enough to counter disinformation.

Imran Ahmed, CEO of CCDH, said: "Our hope for a return to normal life rests with scientists developing a successful vaccine for coronavirus. But social media companies' irresponsible decision to continue to publish anti-vaccine propaganda means a vaccine may not be effective in containing the virus. The price for their greed is a cost paid in lives."

Jo Stevens, Labour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: “This poll lays bare just how dangerous disinformation online can be. The rapid spread of false information about vaccinations could literally be a question of life and death. Social media companies must ensure this content has no place on their platforms and Ministers must do more to promote the benefits of vaccines and counter the harmful, dangerous myths which surround them before a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.”