Change in AstraZeneca UK regulation for under 30s did not impact vaccine intentions

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Medical practitioner prepares a COVID-19 vaccine.

New research from the University of Stirling shows that the change in UK regulation of the AstraZeneca vaccine – recommending an alternative for those under 30 – has had no effect on the general public’s intention to get vaccinated. 

Significantly, the research also revealed that there was no change in intention amongst the 30-40 age group – who will continue to be offered the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine. 

The UK drugs regulator changed its guidance on April 7, after finding that, by the end of March, 79 people had suffered rare blood clots – 19 of whom had died. Three of those who died were under 30. The regulator said it was “acting on a precautionary basis”.

Earlier in March, many European countries, including France, Denmark and Germany, suspended use of the AZ vaccine altogether.

During this time, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, including Dr David Comerford of Stirling’s Behavioural Science Centre, Stirling Management School, had been collecting data for a wider project on fear and concerns related to COVID-19. The team re-surveyed respondents following the European suspensions of the AZ vaccine and found no change in intention.

Following the change in regulation for the under 30s and subsequent front page news stories, Dr Comerford re-ran his survey on April 9 to explore whether there had been a change in vaccine intention – and found that there had not.

Dr David Comerford

Dr David Comerford led the study.

Dr Comerford said: “I was surprised - I thought we would see a change in response following the UK regulator’s new guidance. Perhaps not from the under 30s, who would be offered different vaccines, but if you were 31 – 35, say, we would have expected hesitancy.

“This is not to say that people were not concerned by the news. Google Trends data shows increasing search activity for the terms ‘vaccine’ and ‘safe’ coinciding with the headlines. Also, on April 9th - the day of our data collection - the President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson, reported that all A&E departments witnessed an increase in the number of people reporting concerns after having the AstraZeneca vaccine. These concerns did not translate into mistrust of the vaccination programme in the UK, however.”

Research paper

Dr Comerford's study measures the vaccine intentions of over 700 UK residents and how they responded to a real-world shock.

The research paper, ‘How Did a Change in Regulatory Guidance regarding the AstraZeneca Vaccine impact Vaccine Hesitancy? A Repeated Cross-Section Event Study from the UK’ is published now.

You can read a blog authored by Dr Comerford on the findings on the University's Public Policy Blog.

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