Earlier this week, Pfizer announced that early data from its coronavirus vaccine trials indicate that its vaccine is more than 90% effective. Meanwhile, the Oxford vaccine, whose results may be released in the coming weeks, has already been touted as a much cheaper alternative that will be easier to administer than the Pfizer vaccine.
While neither vaccine has yet been approved for widespread use, there is renewed optimism that a vaccine will be available in the near future. The vast majority (72%) of the British public now think that is it likely that a coronavirus vaccine will become available within the next year, up from 45% at the end of October. Only 15% think it is unlikely—a dramatic shift.
However, there are large disparities between age groups: only 53% of 18-to-24-year-olds think it is likely that there will be a vaccine within the next year, compared to 87% of those over 65. Even though our question did not specify availability to the respondents themselves, higher levels of optimism among the oldest age group may be due to the release of a ‘priority list’ for the vaccine, which prioritises older and more vulnerable groups, and has suggested that if the Pfizer vaccine if approved, full doses could start to be administered in early December. Details of how the vaccine will be administered to those under 50 are yet to be announced.
Two-thirds (66%) of the British public say they will get themselves vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine becomes available at little to no financial cost within the next year. A substantial 17% say they will not. Willingness to get vaccinated has decreased slightly since June, and the percentage who say they will not get vaccinated has remained consistent over the last few months. The recent news from Pfizer does not seem to have had an effect on the British public’s likelihood, and willingness, to get vaccinated.
Again, there are significant differences across the age groups. Just 58% of 18-to-24-year-olds say they will get a vaccine if it becomes available, compared to 79% of those over 65. Notably, over a quarter (26%) of 18-to-24-year-olds say they will not get the coronavirus vaccine compared to just 7% of those over 65. This difference might, in part, stem from a desire among the young for the older population to get vaccinated first, or it may stem from the fact that young people appear unlikely to become seriously ill from the virus.
Our poll found almost identical results when asking whether respondents would encourage friends and family to get vaccinated, including similar differences among age groups.
That younger people are also less likely to encourage their friends and family to get the vaccine suggests that their relative unwillingness to get vaccinated may, in fact, not be related to a desire for older, more vulnerable groups to have access to it first. It therefore appears more likely that a sizeable segment of young people are less likely to get vaccinated because of concerns about its safety or because they do not feel it is necessary for them and their peers.
The expedited nature of the coronavirus vaccine has raised concerns that some may not get themselves vaccinated due to safety fears. The vast majority (80%) of the British public think that all members of the Government should take the vaccine to ensure that the public trust in the safety of the coronavirus vaccine, while just 3% disagree.
Only 6% of the British public expect it will be more than a year before they can get vaccinated, if they wanted to do so. 13% think they will be able to get a vaccine before the end of 2020, and over a third (36%) expect it will be possible to get themselves vaccinated by March next year, one year after the start of the national lockdown. A further fifth (19%) expect that they will be able to get themselves vaccinated by the end of June. Despite the fact it can take up to a decade to roll out a vaccine, the British public are optimistic that a vaccine will be available to them in the very near future.
Among those aged 65 or older, 16% say they expect that they will be able to be vaccinated by the end of this year, and an additional 50% say they expect to be able to get vaccinated by March next year. This level of expectation was higher than other age groups. Nevertheless, members of other age groups also had high expectations: 37% of 18-to-24-year olds, 36% of 25-to-24-year olds, 42% of 35-to-44-year olds, 46% of 45-to-54-year olds, and 53% of 55-to-64-year olds in sum expect to be vaccinated by March next year.
It is clear that the latest news on Pfizer’s vaccine has shot through the country. Indeed, the recent update on the progress of a vaccine has led to a dramatic increase in the proportion of the British public who think it is likely a vaccine will be available in the next year, and sizable portions of every age group even expect it will be possible for them to get vaccinated by March next year. However, a significant minority of young people say they will not get the vaccine themselves and also say they will not encourage their friends and family to get the vaccine either, suggesting some resistance to the new medical product. The overwhelming majority of the public think all members of Government should take the vaccine to ensure public trust in its safety.