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Understanding Covid-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy in context: Findings from a qualitative study involving citizens in Bradford, UK

By Bridget Lockyer, Shahid Islam, Aamnah Rahman, Josie Dickerson, Kate Pickett, Trevor Sheldon, John Wright, Rosemary R. C. McEachan, Laura Sheard, on behalf of the Bradford Institute for Health Research Covid-19 Scientific Advisory Group

Posted 26 Dec 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.22.20248259

BackgroundCovid-19 vaccines can offer a route out of the pandemic, yet initial research suggests that many are unwilling to be vaccinated. A rise in the spread of misinformation is thought to have played a significant role in this vaccine hesitancy. In order to maximise vaccine uptake it is important to understand why misinformation has been able to take hold at this time and why it may pose a more significant problem within certain populations and places. ObjectiveTo understand peoples Covid-19 beliefs, their interactions with health (mis)information during Covid-19 and attitudes towards a Covid-19 vaccine. Design and participantsIn-depth phone interviews were carried out with 20 people from different ethnic groups and areas of Bradford during Autumn 2020. Reflexive thematic analysis was conducted. ResultsParticipants spoke about a wide range of emotive misinformation they had encountered regarding Covid-19, resulting in confusion, distress and mistrust. Vaccine hesitancy could be attributed to three prominent factors: safety concerns, negative stories and personal knowledge. The more confused, distressed and mistrusting participants felt about their social worlds during the pandemic, the less positive they were about a vaccine. ConclusionsCovid-19 vaccine hesitancy needs to be understood in the context of the relationship between the spread of misinformation and associated emotional reactions. Vaccine programmes should provide a focused, localised and empathetic response to counter misinformation. Patient or public contributionA rapid community and stakeholder engagement process was undertaken to identify Covid-19 related priority topics important to both Bradford citizens and local decision makers.

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