A public opinion study of 8,000 people from the United States and the United Kingdom indicates that conspiracy theories and misinformation fuel mistrust in Covid-19 vaccines.
It is indicated in the study that this could bring vaccination levels against Covid-19 in the United States and the United Kingdom below the rates necessary to protect communities against the disease.
The inquiry with the 8,000 people in the two countries found that less than 55% of the population that scientists estimate is needed to provide the so-called “herd immunity” would “definitely” agree to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“Vaccines only work if people get vaccinated. Misinformation influences anxieties and uncertainties surrounding new vaccines [para el Covid-19]as well as the new platforms that are being used to develop them, ”said Heidi Larson, professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, co-director of the study.
“This threatens to undermine acceptance levels for the Covid-19 vaccine,” added Larson, who is also director of the International Vaccine Trust Project.
The study comes as one of the major vaccination efforts showed promising results this week. Pfizer Inc said Monday that its experimental vaccine for Covid-19 is more than 90% effective, according to interim data from late-stage trials, and Russia indicates that the effectiveness of its Sputnik V vaccine is 92%.
The data was seen as a crucial step in the battle to contain a pandemic that has killed more than a million people.
In the misinformation study, 3,000 respondents in each country were exposed between June and August to widely circulated misinformation on social media about a Covid-19 vaccine. The remaining 1,000 from each country, acting as a control group, were shown factual information about the vaccines.
Before being exposed to misinformation, 54% of Britons said they would “definitely” accept a vaccine, compared to 41.2% in the United States.
However, after being shown the wrong information from the internet, that number dropped by 6.4 percentage points in the UK group and by 2.4 percentage points in the US.
In both countries, people without a college degree, those from low-income groups and those who are not white are more likely to decline a Covid-19 vaccine, the study found.
Women were more likely than men to refuse a vaccine for Covid-19, but more respondents in both countries said they would accept a vaccine if it means protecting family, friends or groups at risk.