Vaccination hesitancy and conspiracy beliefs in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic
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BACKGROUND: Conspiracy beliefs about vaccination along with vaccination hesitancy are threats to achieving population immunity during the SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic. This longitudinal study aimed to clarify the association between these and non-monetary incentives to vaccination in the UK. METHOD: Data were collected at three points: (1) before and (2) after the development of a vaccine and (3) after the vaccination programme was underway. At Time 1, participants completed measures of general and COVID-19-specific concerns about vaccination and belief in conspiracy theories. At times 2 and 3, participants reported their intentions whether or not to have the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Those who were hesitant provided qualitative comments about what might change their decision. RESULTS: Vaccination hesitancy decreased between times 1 (54%) and 3 (13%). There were small effects of conspiracy beliefs on vaccine hesitancy, but only at time 1. Most concerns and reported incentives were related to safety, although at time 2, incentives included endorsement by trusted public figures. By time 3, only a minority of participants (N = 18) were adamantly against vaccination, stating that nothing would change their minds. CONCLUSION: Vaccination hesitancy declined in the UK during the course of the study. However, concerns about vaccine safety remained and could jeopardise the vaccination programme should any adverse effects be reported. Conspiracy beliefs seem to play only a minor role in hesitancy and may continue to decrease in importance with a successful vaccination programme. Understanding motivations behind vaccination hesitancy is vital if we are to achieve population immunity.
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