Doubts on coronavirus vaccine linked to ‘lack of knowledge’

Information on medicine and impact needed, according to State agency research

For the research, respondents were questioned on their knowledge and attitudes towards the Covid-19 vaccine. File photograph: Getty

For the research, respondents were questioned on their knowledge and attitudes towards the Covid-19 vaccine. File photograph: Getty

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Some people’s hesitancy about taking Covid-19 vaccines is linked to a lack of knowledge and awareness of their benefits, according to new research.

The less people followed news coverage about the virus, the less likely they were to want to take the vaccine, the research by the Economic and Social Research Institute indicates.

Providing factual information about vaccines and their real-world effectiveness may help bridge the gap in knowledge, the authors suggest.

About four out of five adults say they have received the vaccine or intend to get it, with the rest unsure or opposed to receiving it.

For the research, respondents were questioned on their knowledge and attitudes towards the Covid-19 vaccine – how much they know about it, what they see as the greatest risks and benefits, and whether they plan to take it.

The participants did a multiple-choice quiz that tested what they knew about the effectiveness of the vaccine, the development process, side-effects and whether they would have to pay out-of-pocket for it.

Most participants who were planning not to take the vaccine, or who were unsure, scored substantially poorer on the quiz than the majority planning to take it.

Those planning to take the vaccine got an average score of 67 per cent, compared with 50 per cent for those who were unsure and just 37 per cent for those planning not to take it.

Participants also listed their thoughts about the risks and benefits of the vaccine. Most people listed at least one risk, but there was a big difference in the listing of benefits.

By the numbers

Only 5 per cent of those planning not to take the vaccine and about 50 per cent of those who were unsure listed any benefit at all. This compared to 91 per cent of people planning to take it.

“These results suggest that some people who are unsure about taking the Covid-19 vaccine may not know enough about it”, said Dr Deirdre Robertson, lead researcher on the study.

“The results suggest providing factual information about how the vaccine was developed and tested, and the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing illness may bridge this gap in knowledge.”

Prof Pete Lunn, head of the ESRI’s behavioural research unit, said that since the data was collected the number wanting to take the vaccine have risen steadily. He suggested this was due to improved knowledge and recognition of the benefits it brings.

“But the study shows that a minority of the population do not follow the news about Covid-19 and may take longer to realise how effective and safe the vaccines are.”