Amid concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine’s link to rare blood clots and questions of how effective vaccines will be against fast-spreading new variants of the virus, the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies shows that the British public is still confident in the ability of vaccines to protect their recipients.
While confidence or lack of confidence in the vaccines by the public is qualitatively different from what the relevant scientists and doctors think, in terms of its ability to medically assess the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines, it is important to know where the public is as they are the ones who are receiving the vaccines and they are the ones who will decide whether or not to resume their ‘normal lives’ once vaccinated.
When asked to rate their confidence in the ability of specific vaccines to protect their recipients from getting seriously ill due to the coronavirus, on a scale of 0 (not at all confident) to 5 (very confident), the plurality (36%) of respondents rate their confidence in the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine a 5 out of 5, while a further quarter (24%) say 4 out of 5. Respondents’ average rating for Oxford-AstraZeneca is 3.3, and the median rating is 4, with just 7% placing their confidence at 0.
However, there are considerable differences in Britons’ confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine’s ability to protect its recipients according to respondents’ ages. While 47% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 45% of those aged 65 and over rate their confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine a 5 out of 5, only 17% of 18-to-24-year-olds give the same rating.
Respondents who have been vaccinated (47%) are considerably more likely than those who have not been vaccinated (19%) to rate their confidence at 5. This is especially true for those who were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, 52% of whom select 5 (very confident), with a further 25% rating their confidence at 4 out of 5.
The British public expressed a similar level of confidence in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s ability to protect recipients from getting seriously ill due to the coronavirus: 34% place their confidence at 5 out of 5, and 24% rate theirs at 4. As with the AstraZeneca vaccine, Britons’ average rating of their confidence in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 3.3 out of 5, and their median rating is 4.
Once again, respondents aged 55 to 64 (42%) and 65 and over (41%) are significantly more likely to rate their confidence in the Pfizer vaccine at 5 out of 5 than 18-to-24-year-olds (11%)—indicating that young people’s concerns about vaccines’ ability to protect their recipients are not specific to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Similar patterns emerge in that a greater proportion of those who have been vaccinated (44%)—particularly those who received the Pfizer vaccine (57%)—say their confidence is at a 5 out of 5 with respect to the vaccine’s ability to protect its recipients, compared to 18% of those who have not been vaccinated.
Respondents’ average confidence rating is slightly lower for the Moderna vaccine, at 2.9 out of 5, with 22% giving this vaccine a 5. This relatively lower score could be due to the fact that the Moderna vaccine has only recently started to be administered in the UK. Britons’ lack of familiarity could thus account, at least in part, for the 36% of 18-to-24-year-olds who rate their confidence in the Moderna vaccine’s ability to protect its recipients at a 0, 1, or 2 out of 5.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not been approved for use in the UK yet, but a substantial share of the British public rates their confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s ability to protect its recipients from getting seriously ill as a 4 (21%) or 5 (20%) out of 5. Like all of the previously-discussed vaccines, the median rating is 4, whereas the average rating is slightly lower than the others’ at 2.6.
Likely as a result of recent news surrounding blood clot risks and its lower reported efficacy rates, a considerable 19% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 18% of 25-to-34-year-olds say their confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is at a 0 out of 5.
With respect to China’s SinoVac vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Britons’ average rating of their confidence is 1.6 and 1.7, respectively. These vaccines—which have not been approved for use in the UK or the EU—see approximately a fifth of respondents saying they are not at all confident in their ability to protect recipients, with 22% rating the SinoVac vaccine and 18% rating the Sputnik V vaccine a 0 out of 5. Meanwhile, a quarter of respondents say they don’t know how confident they are in the SinoVac (25%) and Sputnik V (24%) vaccines’ abilities to prevent their recipients from getting seriously ill with COVID-19.
Altogether, the British public appears to be most confident in the efficacy of the two vaccines that have been administered in large quantities in the UK: Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech. Britons—especially younger ones—are slightly less confident in the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines’ ability to protect their recipients from getting seriously ill with COVID-19, though their confidence levels are still substantial. Confidence in the Sputnik V and SinoVac vaccines, by contrast, is limited and will likely continue to be as long as these vaccines are not approved for use in the UK.