Attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination, vaccine hesitancy and intention to take the vaccine
Background: The pandemic is at a paradoxical stage, with vaccine roll out initiated but a significantly elevated level of infection and death. Hope for recovery lies in high equitable vaccine uptake.
Objective: The study aimed to: i) explore attitudes and factors influencing attitudes, towards the COVID-19 vaccine amongst people living in Malta, ii) identify the reasons as to why individuals are unsure or unwilling to take the vaccine.
Methods: Two consecutive, short, anonymous online surveys using social media platforms were used to gather data from adult individuals. The first study was open to residents in Malta, while the second study invited international participation. Study 1 consisted of 17 questions inspired by the Theories of Planned Behaviour and Reasoned Action. Study 2 asked participates whether they were willing, unwilling or unsure of taking the vaccine and their reasons for being unsure or unwilling.
Results: A total of 2,529 individuals participated in Study 1 and 834 in Study 2. In both studies respondents were predominantly female having a tertiary education. Over 50% declared that they were willing to take the vaccine, with males being more willing (t=5.83, df=1164.2, p<0.00005). Opinions of significant others- family and friends (r=0.22, p<0.005) and health professionals (r=0.74, p<0.005) were associated with willingness to take the vaccine. Vaccine hesitancy was present in the study population with 32.6% being unsure and 15.6% declaring that they were not willing to take the vaccine. Females were more likely to be unsure (Chi-squared=14.63, df=4, p=0.006). Lack of vaccine safety was the main reason cited for unwillingness to take the vaccine. Predictors for willingness to take the vaccine were: i) The belief that the COVID-19 vaccine will protect the health of the people who take it; ii) Valuing the advice of health professionals regarding the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine; iii) Having taken the influenza vaccine last year and; iv) Encouraging their elderly parents to take the vaccine.
Conclusions: COVID-19 vaccination information campaigns should promote group strategies, focusing on emphasising the safety of the vaccine and offer reassurance, especially to women.
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