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Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★

Did you know that as of September 2020, only 54.1% of the public in the UK and 42.5% in the USA would ‘definitely’ accept a COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves? 

I sincerely hope these figures are wrong and have changed substantially since September 2020. Why? These vaccine acceptance rates are lower than the proportion of vaccinated people required to achieve the anticipated herd immunity levels for SARS-CoV-2. Interestingly, in the study that produced these disturbing figures (see below), a higher proportion of individuals in both the UK and the USA would ‘definitely’ vaccinate to protect family, friends and at-risk groups, suggesting that effective altruistic messaging may be required to boost vaccine uptake. This is why I have always taken the line that vaccination is not necessarily about you, but society and in the case of COVID-19 vulnerable people. 

It is clear that misinformation/disinformation campaigns on social media have a remarkable effect on individual behaviour and lead to vaccine hesitancy. It is clear from recent political events across the globe that we need to move beyond the ‘post-truth era’ and reclaim the moral high ground and to start trusting our experts again. We have put in place institutions, such as our drug regulatory agencies, to protect the public. The fact that they have the necessary ‘deep expertise’ and have vetted and licensed several COVID-19 vaccines makes them safe to use at a population level. So my message is simple if you are offered a chance to be vaccinated with one of the COVID-19 vaccines take up the offer ASAP. The vaccine will not only protect you but your fellow citizens as well. In fact, you will be saving lives.  

The more unvaccinated people there are. particularly unvaccinated immunosuppressed individuals, the more opportunity the virus has to mutate and develop immune escape variants, i.e. new virus strains that are resistant to immunity from the current vaccines. These new strains will extend the pandemic, killed more people and make the economic impact of the pandemic worse. Based on this alone several commentators make the point that we all have a duty to be vaccinated.

What this study also shows that there is more to simply fighting the virus to end this pandemic; we have a propaganda war on our hands fighting both misinformation and disinformation about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccinations. I think we all have a responsibility to join this battle. Everyone needs to say something like  ‘I am a vaccinee and proud of it’ or ‘I have done my duty and have had the vaccine’. I am not a marketeer or advertising creative, but if you could come up with some catchy slogans we could then all push them out on social media and start a campaign. What do you think? 

Loomba et al. Measuring the impact of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on vaccination intent in the UK and USA. Nature Human Behaviour (2021); published: 05 February 2021.

The widespread acceptance of a vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) will be the next major step in fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but achieving high uptake will be a challenge and maybe impeded by online misinformation. To inform successful vaccination campaigns, we conducted a randomized controlled trial in the UK and the USA to quantify how exposure to online misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines affects the intent to vaccinate to protect oneself or others. Here we show that in both countries—as of September 2020—fewer people would ‘definitely’ take a vaccine than is likely required for herd immunity, and that, relative to factual information, recent misinformation induced a decline in the intent of 6.2 percentage points (95th percentile interval 3.9 to 8.5) in the UK and 6.4 percentage points (95th percentile interval 4.0 to 8.8) in the USA among those who stated that they would definitely accept a vaccine. We also find that some sociodemographic groups are differentially impacted by exposure to misinformation. Finally, we show that scientific-sounding misinformation is more strongly associated with declines in vaccination intent.

CoI: multiple

Twitter: @gavinGiovannoni                                              Medium: @gavin_24211

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

47 comments

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  • The first 4 people I spoke to after new of the Pfizer broke said they would not have the vaccine. One said she and her husband would after a few months, “once she know it was safe,” that is ,she makes the decisions for her husband of 82 with COPD + she hasn’t a grip on how research trials work. I sent her a tersely worded Christmas card explaining phase III trials and they’ve had it. Result.

    Got my younger friend on the phone and she’s now going to. Her original reasoning? Had a bad reaction to a flu one that affected one of her cats. I didn’t sneer as she lives alone and relies on these felines for company. The 4th person is not a friend but I know her as we chat if we meet on a walk or a run. She is 80 and says she’s never been vaccinated because she’s healthy. I’ve yet to bump into her again, but will press her. I’ll play the citizenship card.

  • I do think the reason for high uptake in the older age group is they can remember the impact of polio, measles, mumps, rubella etc when they were younger. The younger generation will no doubt have had their childhood immunisations and take for granted the benefit of living in a society where common infectious diseases have been all but eradicated. This will be the first serious epidemic they have had to face. Understanding the reason for and benefit of immunisation not only for the individual but the wider community is very important. I think many do not understand that.

  • Agree. The MMR controversy is still no doubt a factor. There is a lot of basic education and training to be done about immunisation here. I lived in SE Asia for two years and saw the impact of a lack of a universal childhood immunisation strategy . I came back to the UK and realised how much we take for granted.

    I’d be happy to use a sticker. Had my first dose of AZ last week in preparation for starting Ocrelizumab in a few weeks. Thank you for all your work and hope your rehab is going well.

  • Some of it is defiantly propaganda, misinformation and disinformation

    I think 3 other main factors –

    * a lot of people don’t trust their governments world wide for various reasons

    *people don’t trust the media outlets, due to the huge bias and the media’s own agendas they want to push or ignore. The covid pandemic is on out TVs, phones, radios, newspapers 24/7, the information on there isn’t consistent.

    The information people had though the media they where not seeing in their day to day lives

    *also people see a vaccine get passed through in a matter of months, which as we all know these things usually take around a decade or longer to pass clinical testing

    The truth is a lot of us wouldn’t be here without vaccines and medical interventions but I cannot also blame someone to be suspicious of the vaccine for whatever reason as wrong as they maybe.

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist, however the information we see day in day out about covid personally just doesn’t ring true to me, something seams off about it all but I cannot put my finger on what that is.

    • Well over 100,000 dead in the UK tells you all you need to know and the speed of the response by vaccine produc ers has been nothing short of phenomenal. In fact one of the few benefits of the pandemic is that it has validated new methods of vaccine production and manufacture that will of great benefit in speeding up responses to the inevitable new zoonotic viruses we shall see in the future.

      • I’m not disputing that, covid is defiantly there. I’m giving you reasons why people are suspicious.

        And it wouldn’t be over a 100,000 if handled correctly.

        • COVID is certainly defiant 😉 and social media must take a huge share of the blame for spreading malicious falsehoods.
          You are correct that the government’s handling of the pandemic with the notable exception of the vaccine strategy has been an utter disaster, a combination of too late and too little, then too soon, every single time.
          This is worth a listen for anyone interested.

          • Predictive text 🙄. No doubt social media is to blame for the gullible that believe the false propaganda. Main stream media has had its part in it. I could list them but unfortunately I don’t have the time and would be to lengthily for this blog.

            Il have my jab, no problem

            The NHS, vaccine development and rollout have been amazing throughout this.

            But I can also see the reasons why people would be suspicious whether you agree with that or not.

    • I could not agree more with what you have shared here, John!

      I would also add
      * People without expertise in a specific field should stay with what they know!

      Why has society given so much power to those that have no expertise in something? Just because someone has money, we now just blindly allow them to influence what goes into our minds and bodies?

      I am not a Conspiracy Theorist, but I am not longer subjecting myself and those I am responsible for to just go along with X because I was told to do so. I am doing my own research. I am asking questions and encouraging others to do so as well.

      I am so tired of society questioning and canceling those that actually think for themselves!

      I thank you for your comments here, John!

  • Just off the top of my head you could throw a hashtag in front of these maybe:

    “vaccinate to eliminate / eradicate / terminate “ whatever you feel would be more appropriate !
    Or
    “ I’ve had mine.. have you had yours?” Leaves a feeling of social and moral responsibility and could get people to think why haven’t they had theirs ?

  • My firm belief is that Andrew Wakefield kicked this nutty attitude off, though an “alternative” friend of mine threw a horror hissy about me having the flu vaccination about 20 years ago, when I’d just been diagnosed with MS. So this was just about before “Dr” A Wakefield threw his googly into the public domain. In the paper yesterday, I read that a researcher based at Keele Uni is garnering huge sums from Go Fund Me for his anti-vaxxer research. Keele are being fairly slope-shouldered about it, distancing themselves but upholding his right to pursue his work. Dumb or what?

    So Pro G raises £25k for nearly unzipping himself on the streets of London, while this creep is pulling in hundreds of thousands. Que sine frega (v. v. rude Italian curse)

    • Prof Andrew Pollard, chair of the Oxford Vaccine Group, called the Keels study “bad science”….Starting a trial without the product…is Good science:-)

  • During the pandemic people are cheering the first responders for putting their lives on the line. Yet when the time comes for them to do their part, get vaccinated and prevent further deaths they say “ not me”. What hypocrisy.

  • Only 0.02 fatality rate and thats assuming you ever get this ‘flu’ keep pushing the fear whilst those patients who are denied treatment in hospital die every day.. the risks are too. I won’t even mention the 2pcr tests which continue to generate data that is essentially meaningless. I am not saying peopledying is in any way good but I am saying for research scientists to versiverously promote vaccines that have at best been rushed into circulation and at worst willfully ignored the dangers of new medical technology being used with no 1diligent thorough testing. But hey the government added to the covid bill immunity from prosecution for government employees due to these vaccines killing people in a year, tow years time. So you just carry on and remember history, those who support tyrany will be swept aside with that same tyranny when people find out the truth.

    • And this is just the sort of batshit, Trumpian, conspiracy bollocks Kit is talking about. We have to deal with this guff and counter it at every opportunity.
      The question is what is the motivation for posting mushroom food?

    • The vaccines have been trialled as much as any other….the speed is because Governments have put your money behind it. So what are your real arguments and what are the dangers of the technology

    • For years Holocaust denial has greatly saddened me and completely messed with my sense of rational thinking. How it is even possible that in the 21st century in the face of the pandemic, this type of comprehension holds any sway whatsoever?!?

      Please let history show that common sense and community spirit has prevailed with one and all receiving vaccination and that clinicians and scientists are lauded for all they have done for those all who are too often selfish or disinterested.

      Most of us with MS are immunocompromised as a result of whichever DMT we receive/have received. We wouldn’t wish anyone to add to our vulnerability to a contagious condition if it is within their power to prevent this – so in our turn should we take this attitude towards those who are most vulnerable from Covid.

  • To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger, if your house catches fire, you don’t go onto Facebook, you call the fire department. If you’re about to be mugged , you don’t look at You Tube, you call 911. Why oh why do people trust snake oil salesmen and ignore doctors, scientists, even politicians (can’t believe I wrote that)? Well I do know why: money. The scumbags that peddle this crap aren’t philanthropists, just greedy, bloodsucking narcissists.

  • How can you not see why people would be suspicious, people see a global pandemic reported by the media originated from China, which was pretty baseless as the WHO are only just investigating this theory now.

    Then Phizer turn up with a vaccine that they take no liabilities for if something goes wrong, has to be stored at -70 degrees.

    People see Phizers track record with a similar situation in Nigeria, Africa in 1996. An antibiotic tested on kids in a slum, 11 out of a 100 children died and many more with serious long term effects and Phizer settled 50million out of court.

    So when the vaccines first arrived with very little time period testing and people are expected just to put and product into their arm with no medium or long term testing/date with no questions asked, your going to raise questions, not everyone who is wary or nervous is a conspiracy theorist they are just cautious/unsure

    People with MS wait for years for better treatments, constantly getting told let’s wait for phase 3 trials etc for the data

    If this was the standard, would that mean everything that passes a phase 1 trial gets given as treatment? No.

    The mRNA technology maybe amazing, but the general public don’t know this and there is no trust in establishments –
    Governments
    Big tech
    Main stream media
    Big pharma
    Social media giants etc

    To get some truth out there is hard as the amount of conflicting information is vast and uncontrolled.

    • The initial major outbreak of COVID-19 was in Wuhan, may have been brought in from somewhere else but that was the first hotspot and the initial reluctance to alert the WHO to this helped the virus to be seeded around the world via air travel as seen in Northern Italy.
      The Pfizer vacccine is actually the work of the German company BioNTech, who partnered with Pfizer as they had the expertise to run a trial at scale quickly.
      How long a testing period do you want? This has been done to the same level of rigour but much speeded up due to the resource (billions in cash) thrown at it by governments.
      If the same was done for MS, the speed of finding effective treatments would be greatly increased.
      All these vaccines have passed phase III trials, it’s just phases I and II have had to be done in parallel.
      There is more trust out there than you give credit for and this has been a massive success story for science and medicine in general.

  • Why people don’t trust the science isn’t because they’ve informed themselves, it’s because they have relied on stuff being peddled by conspiracy theorists on line. There are reliable sources and ones that are utterly contemptible in the rubbish they peddle. People don’t read the instructions for an Ikea bookshelf, then they wonder why they can’t fix it or it falls apart after a week even if they actually do manage to succeed. This is so much more important but why would you read around the background to the development to Pfizer and AZ? Do you imagine that future vaccine development will ever take a decade to complete again (unless it’s fairrly leisurely because the product required isn’t time critical)? No. Many parts of the research were fast tracked, but not the three/four phases. The old model of seeking ethical go aheads, funding etc., have been blown out of the water.

    !! of 100 children from such dirt poor backgrounds would already have been sick or weakened from malnutrition and poor hygiene.

    As I said this crap is peddled for money. OxfordAz and Johnson & Johnson (Jansen vaccine) are prepared to push their vaccines out on a not-for-profit basis. What the hell would anyone want to believe some creep who tells people to inhale steam for?

  • You can’t fast track time.

    Can you be sure there will not be medium and longterm side effects?

    I can’t blame people that have a concern for there own safety due to uncertainty

    Anxiety is though the roof everywhere.

    You won’t be able to reverse peoples hesitancy , personally I think the only thing that will change around 50% of the public’s perception is seeing others get it unfortunately.

    The average 50% will get smaller over time providing there are no side effects for others.

    • “Anxiety is though the roof everywhere”.

      A tad hyperbolic, I think and except, it would appear, in the elderly groups that are being vaccinated in encouragingly, very large numbers. The fact that this cohort are also the least likely to engage with social media etc is I would suggest by no means unconnected.
      You can’t be 100% sure there won’t be side-effects, medium or long-term, which is why you do long-term follow-up, as is the case for all medications or vaccines.
      One thing is for sure, we won’t microbiome our way out of this one 😉

      • My point is it’s not just social media, social media is a platform it doesn’t generate information, the people do, where do people get their information from, the internet.

        People have more access to information than ever before you can read one story and an opposing other.

        For example on yesterday’s topic about telomere length. You said you cannot extend the length and don’t believe what’s on the internet, however a study at Tel Aviv university suggests using hyperbaric oxygen chambers can increase the length by 38%

        So who is right and who is wrong?

        Are university’s lying?

        That’s just one example of conflicting information on the internet. There are billions of others.

  • BTW Pfizer BioNTech is stored at -70degrees BECAUSE there are no preservatives in it. How do I know? I have read about the contents, of course. It’s halal, doesn’t contain micro chips, animal products, render you sterile or change your DNA. Life isn’t risk free. Nothing is risk free. Longitudinal studies will bear this out.

  • Ok some slogan ideas! The shorter the better?!

    Jabbed, duty done
    Jab, job done
    Protect yourself, protect others
    Vaccinate and carry on
    Stay safe and vaccinate
    Do Your Jab Duty
    Vaccinate for victory

    For the scary tv adverts…
    Vaccinate or die

    …tumbleweed.

    • We need to enguage people in a variety of different ways. I think the keep Claim, Vaccinate and Carry on is already a T shirt. My “Stop being an ingnorant Twanker…Get out of My Airspace” T-shirt got a laugh from the postal worker the other day.

      I have just seen the video by Sir Elton (John 73) and Sir Michael Caine (87) by Prof Lord Darzi https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-56018107. We also need to do a range of approaches especially with the BAME population that have suffered from the ravages of COVID-19 and are not enguaging with vaccination.

      Maybe for the 60 year olds we can get Captain Slackbladder (Rowan Ackinson) doing a vaccination sketch with Baldrick (If you can teach him how to count https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4IQjUpTNVU why not the benefit of vaccination). John Cleeze doing the “this Virus is dead sketch”, Pele showing us how to protect us from an attacking Brazilian, Sir Des Tutu or ProfG a South African, Arch Bishop of Ranterberry etc, etc,

      • Omg I saw the Elton John one.
        I hope it does help (I mean, I’m not the target audience for Elton John) but I didn’t think it was a great video… the Caine part was a bit better. I saw it was trending last night on youtube so at least that’s a good thing!! Get people talking about it. Though I’d imagine the majority of Elton fans were older white people.
        A Blackadder sketch would be much better!
        I actually think people of influence from different backgrounds should show themselves being vaccinated live. Like when Prince Harry did his HIV test.
        I saw on BBC London the other night the muslim centre in Whitechapel was vaccinating there too, hopefully getting the vaccinating into local community centres like this is going to help.
        Hopefully NHS digital teams are doing loads of targeted ad’s on social media using different messaging to help this too. If Trump can segment his ads and messaging with so much success across different groups – NHS can do it!!!

        • I agree

          I think this video was a result of an unfuuny doctor (Prof Darzi) trying to be funny and not quite getting it right. I suspect Sir Elton will have a few hissy fits about this one. However, who can resist a “My name is Michael Caine”. You are right the first person up there should have been the Queen and Prince Phillips and it was a shame Sir Tom didnt get his vaccination. Prince Charles and BoJo can lead the way for the whities to encourage people who have had the COVID-19 to get a jab. I would save the J&J for them as it looks like one dose can give a good response e.g. one dose oxford 8,000 antibody units 2 doses oxford less than 6 weeks 22,000 unit, more than 12 weeks over 60,000 unit and in people with pre-exisiting response (13,000) go to about 170,000 units. I guess people from differnt backgrounds can pick their champions and it is good that the whitechapel Muslim centres are engaging especially as there is abit of alcohol in one jab. I was disheartened to here to see that people were turning the vaccine down becuase their religious leader had said so, and was glad that the BAME doctor wanted to speak to the pastor. I remember

          As an 80s child, the Elton I would go for is indeed Ben Elton. He will apepeal to the 50-60s somethings. I saw him just before lock down, same wit and venon, it was a shame he didn’t focus more on the politics, but the theme was life and care homes was one element. Little did he know they would become battle rounds between covid and the old. He was socially commenting on what his parent were doing. He made the point of what our/my generation would be listening to (the music from the 70s and 80s) and rap for the gneration below…the comment about that big tattoos of flowers and birds on peoples backs moving south and disappearing in the butt was funny….I suppose you had to be there.

  • A number of people on LinkedIn have formed the opinion that mRNA vaccines change your DNA and these changes are passed on to future generations. Now, it’s clear that vaccines do not change your DNA and this is complete claptrap. But when I challenged this, someone else pointed out that vaccines can change the epigenome. There is data supporting that changes do occur (e.g. meningococcal vaccine) but what this person failed to realise is that the viruses these vaccines protect against also result in epigenetic changes. What is less clear to me is whether these changes are long lasting and whether they are passed down via transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. Is there any evidence supporting this?

    • This is one good reason why I cant be bothered with LinkedIN……
      Evidence…I doubt it but frankly I cant be bothered to hunt, why would an injection in the arm end up in your ovaries and testis.

      • Agree. Lots of arm chair scientists out there. I did spend time reading papers on epigenetics and couldn’t find anything supporting the theory these changes are long lasting or past on. I’m so sick of people getting their information from Facebook or some other click bait media outlet. These people are relying on others to get immunised so they don’t get sick. The very thing they are rallying against is the the thing that will ultimately keep them safe. Nice work Colin with your summary. Can I use it to educate people the next time a call someone out online?

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