Stirling study to analyse attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines

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Medical practitioner prepares a COVID-19 vaccine.

One year on from the original UK coronavirus lockdown, a study led by the University of Stirling is under way to understand attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines.

Findings from the survey of around 5,000 people across Scotland, England and Wales will be shared with key people involved in UK vaccine policy to help shape effective vaccination campaigns.

The OPTIMUM study, funded by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), forms part of a £550 million COVID-19 rapid investment programme aiming to help better understand the disease and combat the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives.

Led by Martine Stead, Deputy Director of the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, the research builds on the Institute’s expertise in public health policy and behaviour change.

The work will provide UK policymakers and stakeholders, including Public Health Scotland and the UK Government, with vital intelligence based on detailed consumer insight, to design effective COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

The survey, which took place in January and February 2021, explored willingness to have the vaccine, attitudes, concerns and reasons for uncertainty, potential motivations, and levels of trust in different sources and organisations. It also reviewed people’s understanding and acceptability of phased vaccination delivery to priority groups.

Once analysed, the results will allow researchers to identify the factors associated with uncertainty about having the vaccine and understand potential implications for public health messaging.

Alongside the survey, the research involves in-depth interviews with 30 participants exploring a variety of topics at length including vaccine passports, the idea of having annual COVID-19 vaccinations, views on the different COVID vaccines and vaccine misinformation.


Martine Stead said: “We want to understand more about what people see as the upsides and downsides of the COVID-19 vaccine. This information will help to design vaccination campaigns and communications in the future that are trusted by people, because they will tell them what they want or need to know before making a decision about having the vaccination.

“With almost 5,000 survey responses, we’ve seen a huge level of interest in this issue from people who want to make their views known. We are collecting data from people in Scotland, England and Wales right at a time when they are faced with a large amount of information about vaccinations so we expect the responses and data to be particularly rich and insightful. These learnings will be used on an ongoing basis to help support a high uptake of the vaccine.”

Alongside the large survey size, the study also uses a probability sample, meaning statistically its results are more robust and decision makers can have high levels of confidence in the findings. Early results are expected in the spring.

The project is among 3,600 new COVID-19 projects, totalling over £554 million, being funded by UKRI across the country in response to COVID-19.

Professor Charlotte Deane, COVID-19-Response Director at UKRI said: “Looking back over the past year, it’s clear that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on so many aspects of our lives, but I take more than a glimmer of hope from the extraordinary work being undertaken by researchers and businesses across the UK. These projects are just the tip of the iceberg. They show the tenacity and creativity of our research and innovation communities in Scotland and beyond, who have stepped up in the most challenging of times to come together and fight back against this devastating disease.”

The University of Stirling is working with The National Centre for Social Research and Professor Helen Bedford, of University College London, on this research.

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