One in six may refuse the Covid-19 vaccine

25 January 2021

Last August we fact checked a piece of research from King’s College London. It found that about one in six people said they would either “definitely not” get the vaccine against Covid-19, or that they were “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to do so.

King’s College, along with several newspapers, described this as evidence about how many people were likely to “refuse” a vaccine.

Our fact check pointed out that people answering this question might not have been planning to refuse the vaccine at all, because they might have thought they were being asked whether they were likely to be offered it.

Since our fact check, the team at King’s has gathered more evidence, which suggests it is correct that at least one in six people might refuse a Covid vaccine, if one was available to them.


Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

How did the new research come about?

When we spoke to the researchers last summer, they agreed that the wording of the original question might have been ambiguous. Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s, told us, “We think this is a possible interpretation of the question, but also that it is unlikely to be a common one or a key driver of the patterns of response." King’s also deleted the original webpage referring to the findings while they looked into the question.

As a result, Professor Duffy’s team conducted new research in November, in which they asked two groups of 1,122 people whether they would be likely to get the vaccine—but this time one of the groups saw the extra words “if it was available to anyone who wanted it”.

The study found that people gave fairly similar answers no matter which question they were asked. Indeed people who were told that the vaccine would definitely be available were more likely to say they wouldn’t get it.

The new research does suggest that people don’t say they won’t get the vaccine, in answer to this question, because they believe they won’t be offered it.

This in turn suggests that, in the summer, about one in six probably were likely to refuse it after all, and that this proportion was roughly the same in November.

Update 25 January 2021

We updated this article to include the latest research from King’s College London.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.