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Vaccine hesitancy: Clinically vulnerable less likely to change mind on Covid shots


By Jess Hacker
10 November 2021

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Clinically vulnerable people are less likely to change their minds and receive a Covid jab than non-clinically vulnerable people, new data has shown.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published yesterday (9 November), indicates that among those who were previously hesitant, vaccine uptake was lower among clinically vulnerable people.

When following up with people who had reported they were ‘unsure’ if they would receive a Covid jab if offered, four-in-10 (42%) of non-vulnerable adults had reported receiving a shot.

By comparison, two-in-10 (16%) of previously hesitant vulnerable adults are now vaccinated.

The data also showed that 68% of vulnerable adults who were previously hesitant went on to decline a vaccine, suggesting ‘they were less likely to change their minds’.

Figures previously reported by the ONS had indicated no statistically significant differences in vaccine hesitancy between the two groups.

Some practices are currently involved in the delivery of the Covid booster campaign, which has so far seen 9 million vaccines administered.

Government must act

Dr Penelope Toff, public health medicine committee chair at the BMA, told Healthcare Leader it is ‘incredibly concerning’ to see that clinically vulnerable patients who are hesitant about having the vaccine are less likely than others to change their minds despite being at much greater risk of developing serious illness and dying from Covid-19.

‘As we go into winter with the current high rates of infection, the Government must urgently address this and do more to combat vaccine hesitancy across the population, including among those who are clinically vulnerable, by properly understanding people’s concerns and addressing them directly,’ she said.

‘The vaccine has already made a significant difference and is key to getting us out of this pandemic, so every effort must be made to reassure those who are reluctant and encourage them to protect themselves and others through vaccination, including the booster where appropriate, and also through simple measures such as wearing masks, distancing, improving indoor ventilation and isolating when symptomatic.’

Meanwhile, Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, told Healthcare Leader: ‘ It is crucial that patients continue to get as much protection as possible from Covid-19, particularly the clinically vulnerable. Good progress is being made in delivering the booster programme, in part by GPs and our teams, and overall more than 8m people have received this extra protection. We need to build on this momentum.

‘It’s clear that public information campaigns advising people of the importance of getting their booster jabs and how to get them work, so it’s vital these are stepped up – and that it is made as easy as possible for people to access these vaccinations. Introducing walk in centres is a good step forward – we need to ensure these are convenient and accessible for people wherever they live.’

Last week, the DHSC announced that these practices can now administer some boosters five months after a patients’ second vaccine dose to help with co-administering flu vaccines.

By cutting the wait between doses from six months to five, some vulnerable groups including housebound patients will be able to receive the flu and Covid vaccines in a single appointment, it said.

The new ONS data similarly showed that among those who were previously hesitant, vaccine uptake was highest among younger people (46%) compared to people aged over 70 (19%).

Anyone over 50 is eligible to receive a Covid booster jab, alongside anyone over 16 with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19.


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