Vaccine confidence declined considerably during pandemic

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Vaccine confidence has fallen sharply since the start of the pandemic, according to a study from the University of Portsmouth. Researchers used anonymous surveys in the winters of 2019 and 2022 to examine attitudes toward vaccinations and factors that may lead to hesitancy and refusal.

Results from more than 1,000 adults show that the post-pandemic group was significantly less vaccine-confident than the pre-pandemic group. The results were published in the medical journal Vaccine.

The researchers found that nearly one in four participants reported a decline in confidence since 2020, and this occurred regardless of age, gender, religion, education and ethnicity.

“While vaccine hesitancy is not a new phenomenon, COVID-19 vaccines have faced particular hostility despite overwhelming scientific evidence of their safety and effectiveness,” says Alessandro Siani, a fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth. . in a statement. “This is not only among conspiracy theorists, but also among those who do not consider themselves ‘anti-vaxxers’ and have supported other vaccination campaigns in the past.”

Participants were asked how much they agreed with statements including:

  • I think vaccines should be a mandatory practice
  • I believe that if I am vaccinated it will benefit the well-being of others
  • Vaccines are a necessity for our health and well-being

In both surveys, participants who held religious beliefs were significantly more hesitant about vaccines than atheists and agnostics, and individuals of black and Asian descent were more hesitant than those of white ethnicity. However, gender showed no association with vaccine belief.

While these general trends remained largely similar between the two surveys, some important changes were noted in the post-pandemic survey, according to the researchers. For example, the analysis found that while in 2019 middle-aged participants were significantly more concerned about vaccination than younger groups, this was not the case in the 2022 survey.

“This may be because COVID-19 infections lead to significantly more severe outcomes in older patients,” Siani said. “Young people who are infected rarely experience severe symptoms that lead to hospitalization and death, so it’s possible that many are complacent and don’t feel the need to get vaccinated. On the other hand, the elderly may have been more wary of the consequences of infection and more grateful for the protection offered by the vaccine.”

While it provides valuable insight into how the pandemic affected public perspectives on vaccinations, the study is not without limitations. The original survey was designed as a standalone piece of research, so a different group of people had to be sampled in 2022. This resulted in a cross-sectional as opposed to a longitudinal study.

“However, the study is consistent with other observations that suggest vaccine confidence may be another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Siani said.

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