As a second wave of coronavirus cases begins to hit the UK and the rest of Europe, governments and the public are becoming more desperate to rapidly develop a successful vaccine that could provide a route out of the pandemic. Currently, out of 300 coronavirus vaccine candidates, nine are in third phase trials, with some hoping for emergency use approval this year. One of the nine vaccines is being developed in the UK by AstraZeneca at Oxford University.
Throughout the past several months, Redfield & Wilton Strategies have been monitoring the attitude of the British public towards a coronavirus vaccine. Currently, a third (33%) of Brits believe that a coronavirus vaccine is likely to become available within the next year, a proportion which is 3 points lower than on 15 September (36%), and 11 points lower than in mid-July (44%). For the first time in 3 polls across July and September, a plurality (39%) now believe a vaccine is unlikely within the next 12 months. The percentage of respondents who expect a coronavirus vaccine within the next year has dropped substantially over the past two months, despite apparent signs of progress, which may be part of an overall trend that we have observed across other aspects of our polling of increasing pessimism amongst the British public.
Men (39%) are significantly more likely to think there will be a vaccine in the next twelve months than women (28%). There is no marked difference in optimism depending on the age of participants, although 2019 Conservative voters (40%) are considerably more likely to believe that a vaccine will be available within a year than 2019 Labour voters (30%). Higher levels of optimism among Conservatives may be due to greater confidence that the Government they elected will be able to partner effectively with health authorities and big pharmaceutical companies. Respondents who identify as middle class are also more confident in a vaccine (39%) than those who identify as working class (30%), which may highlight issues of access and availability that might arise if a vaccine was developed.
The proportion of Brits who would get themselves vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine became available at little to no financial cost within the next year has declined steadily across the summer. At this point, just 62% of Brits say they will get vaccinated, compared to 63% on 15 September, 68% on 22 July, and 71% on 1 July and 18 June. The percentage of Brits who are convinced that they would not get a vaccine has risen gradually from 13% in June to 19% in our latest poll. Growing scepticism around a vaccine may be related to the proliferation of anti-vaccine content on social media across the summer months, while university research has indicated that vaccine scepticism in a large proportion of the public may be related to a belief that natural immunity is more effective than vaccine immunity.
Young people aged 18-to-24 years old (51%) and 25-to-34 years old (49%) are much less likely to claim that they will get vaccinated compared to older respondents aged 55-to-64 years old (74%) or aged 65 or above (78%). Greater reluctance among younger people may be related to their substantially lower risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus in comparison to older people. Those who identify as working class (58%) were also less likely to be committed to taking a vaccine than those who believe they are middle class (68%).
Overall, Brits are increasingly pessimistic about the likelihood of a coronavirus vaccine being developed in the next twelve months. Perhaps more concerningly, a decreasing proportion of respondents are committed to being vaccinated, even if a vaccine can be provided at little to no financial cost.