Directors Update – August 2022

August 18, 2022

The UK autumn booster campaign for COVID-19 starts in September, but how will people behave compared to previous COVID vaccination programmes?

Evidence suggests a gradual decrease in the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, stressing the potential need for periodical booster shots. However, it is hard to tell whether previously applied policies for enhancing vaccine acceptance will be as effective for repeated periodical booster shots.

In July 2022 an Imperial College London (ICL) report compiled survey data on almost half a million people across nine countries to investigate two years of changing behaviours and attitudes during COVID-19. Surveys investigated whether public health measures and guidelines would be effective at curbing the virus’ spread and how restrictions might impact individuals and society more widely. Highlighted findings include greater trust in vaccines but a decrease in confidence in governments’ pandemic handling.

The ICL report says UK citizens had the second lowest opinion of their government’s response, after Germany, with 57% of respondents saying it was handled badly. In four of the nine countries, over half of their population agreed it was handled well: Australia (57%), Canada (59%), Italy (59%), and Denmark (71%). People’s confidence in their healthcare systems’ ability to handle an outbreak has declined over the past two years, although remaining high. In March 2022, countries with the highest confidence were Denmark (81%), Spain (76%) and the UK (72%). Over time people became less willing to self-isolate if told to do so, and less likely to avoid public transport, contact with people who might have COVID-19, and travelling outside their local area.

Latest insights from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that COVID-19 vaccination rates for unvaccinated adults were higher for Black Caribbean, Black African and White Other ethnic groups. Rates were also higher for those living in deprived areas, who have never worked or are long-term unemployed, who are limited a lot by a disability, who identify as Muslim or as having an ‘Other Religion’ or who are male (June 2022).

A July study by the Israel Journal of Health Policy Research shows only 20% of 929 sampled Israeli citizens demonstrated strong acceptance of periodical vaccination, lower than the acceptance rate of the seasonal flu shot in the preceding year.  Strong acceptance was more likely when positive or negative incentives were presented rather than a mandate to be vaccinated. For respondents who were less decisive, it was harder to predict their intention to be vaccinated. Intentions were related to perceived benefits and barriers of the vaccine, perceived efficacy of getting vaccinated and social norms. Hesitator’s intentions were additionally associated with anti-COVID-19 vaccination history, perceived severity of the disease and trust in government.

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