British Public Optimistic on Vaccinations

February 8, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Coronavirus | Coronavirus Lockdown Measures | Coronavirus Vaccine | Health

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In our latest poll of 1,700 adults in Great Britain conducted on 3 February, 18% of respondents say they have received a coronavirus vaccine, compared to 82% who say they have not. This figure roughly approximates the officially reported figures by the UK Government for the end of day on 3 February.

Reflecting the Government’s prioritisation of older people for receiving the vaccine, there is a clear age slant in our results: 35% of respondents aged 65 or older say they have already received a vaccine. Meanwhile, 10% to 13% of respondents below the age of 65 say they have already received a vaccine. This proportion likely includes NHS workers as well as those who have other conditions which place them at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they were to contract coronavirus.

Among the already vaccinated, 15% say they have received their second dose, compared to 85% who have not.

44% of those who have not received a second dose say they have an appointment to receive their second dose. On the other hand, a majority (56%) of those who have received their first dose still do not seem to have been told when they will receive their second dose, reflecting the UK Government’s strategy to prioritise giving first doses to more people and to wait more than the three or four weeks initially prescribed for a second dose.

78% of those who have not been vaccinated yet say they will get the vaccine when it is made available to them. This number has surprisingly remained relatively constant in the past month, even as this sub-group has become smaller due to the increasing number of respondents who have been vaccinated. Only 11% say they will not get vaccinated within the next year if a vaccine is made available to them, highlighting the relatively low levels of vaccine scepticism among the British public.

Perhaps as a reflection of the perceived lower level of risk for them upon infection of coronavirus, younger respondents are slightly more likely to say they will not get vaccinated. Whereas only 8% of those aged 65 or older say they would not get vaccinated, this figure is as high as 17% among those aged 18 to 24. However, willingness to get vaccinated has overall clearly risen in recent months, suggesting that the more people are vaccinated, the more others are willing to be vaccinated.

Of those who say they will get vaccinated if a vaccine becomes available to them, 89% say they will get vaccinated ‘as soon as possible.’ Only 11% say they will wait a bit.

Confidence in the UK’s vaccination programme is altogether clear. 77% of those who say they have not been vaccinated yet think it will be possible for them to access a vaccine within six months (i.e. by early August). Moreover, a majority (52%) of those who have not been vaccinated yet expect that they will have access to a vaccine within three months (i.e. by early May). Only 23% of the unvaccinated think it will take more than six months for them to be able to receive a vaccine, if they were to choose to receive one.

Amid widespread press coverage about the advantages and disadvantages of the different available vaccines, 73% of those who wish to get vaccinated say they do not have a preference about which vaccine they receive so long as it has been approved for use in the UK. Only 27% of this subgroup say that they do have a preference regarding which vaccine they wish to receive.

Although a clear majority of those who want to get vaccinated did not express a strong view about which vaccine they wish to receive, the key element to note is that they do not have a preference so long as the vaccine is approved for use in the UK. Indeed, when asked about whether they consider various vaccines produced around the world to be safe or unsafe, British respondents showed a clear bias in favour of vaccines from Europe or North America.

For example, whereas 80% consider the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be safe, only 31% think the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is safe. China’s Sinovac ranks even lower, as only 24% say they consider the Chinese vaccine safe. Meanwhile, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is the highest-scoring, with 87% saying they consider it safe. Meanwhile, two of the American vaccines (Modern and Johnson & Johnson) score in the middle, with 61-62% saying they consider them safe. It is worth noting that feelings of safety towards these two vaccines is the same despite the fact that the Moderna vaccine has been approved in the UK and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not, demonstrating some bias towards American vaccines over the Russian, Chinese, or Indian vaccines, which have also not yet been approved.

Political party preference has a noticeable (if limited) impact on which vaccines the public considers to be safe. For example, whereas only 25% of 2019 Conservative voters consider the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to be safe, the proportion rises to 36% among 2019 Labour voters. Similarly, 28% of Labour voters consider China’s Sinovac vaccine to be safe, compared to only 21% of Conservative voters. Although these differences are notable, it is still important to remember that the overwhelming majority of voters of both parties do not consider either of these vaccines to be safe.

Even though the UK Government does not allow people to choose which vaccine they will receive, our research found that only 3% of those who have already been vaccinated do not know which vaccine they were given. On the other hand, 55% say they received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and 37% say they were given the Oxford-AstraZeneca one. Only 5% say they were given the Moderna vaccine, which was approved for use in early January.

Overall, 60% are optimistic that the UK’s vaccination program will succeed in ending the coronavirus crisis in the UK, whereas 24% are neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Only 12% are pessimistic that the vaccination program alone will suffice in ending the UK’s coronavirus crisis. Interestingly, there is a noticeable political party preference dimension to answers to this question, with 18% of 2019 Labour voters saying they are pessimistic that the vaccination program will succeed in ending the crisis, compared to only 7% of Conservative voters.

The public is, however, under no illusions that the virus will fully disappear: a large majority (78%) think it is more likely that the coronavirus will be recurring but managed by vaccinations, as occurs with influenza. Only 10% of respondents said they think it is more likely the coronavirus will be eradicated for good by vaccinations, as happened with polio.

Furthermore, the British public is also realistic that a successful vaccination campaign in Britain is not sufficient in order to reduce the level of threat posed by coronavirus to a level similar to the seasonal flu. Whereas 35% think this reduction in the threat will happen once everyone (or most people) in the UK are vaccinated, a plurality (37%) of respondents think it will be necessary for everyone (or most people) in the world to get vaccinated in order to reduce the coronavirus threat level to something akin to seasonal flu.

At the extreme ends of the opinion spectrum, 10% of respondents think the level of threat posed by coronavirus to the UK has already been reduced to the same level as the seasonal flu, whereas 18% think that the coronavirus will never be reduced to such a level of risk and will continue being a threat every year. These views appear to represent only the minority of the public.

Ultimately, the British public has a high degree of confidence that the vaccination program is being conducted safely in the UK, and that they will receive a vaccine themselves within the next few months. Although the public is aware of the fact that the present vaccines may not be enough and that booster vaccines might be necessary in the coming years, an overwhelming majority are optimistic that the success of the current vaccination program will allow the UK to exit the current coronavirus crisis.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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