Great Britain

Covid vaccine acceptance rising across Europe but falling in parts of Asia

Covid vaccine acceptance is rising across Europe as inoculation programmes slowly advance, according to a survey, with the proportion of people saying they are willing to have the jab improving sharply over the past two months.

YouGov tracker data shows double-digit percentage point increases in coronavirus vaccine acceptance rates in eight of the nine European countries surveyed since mid-November, with one country, Sweden, recording a rise of 21 points.

The picture was less positive outside of Europe, however, with people in several countries in Asia appearing no more willing now – and in some cases even slightly less willing – to get vaccinated than when they were asked late last year.

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Europe’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, approved the Pfizer/BioNTech shot on 21 December and the Moderna vaccine a fortnight later, and it is expected to authorise the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab next week.

But national vaccination programmes have been uneven, with some EU members such as Denmark and Malta having inoculated more than 3% of their populations and others such as the Netherlands and France at barely 1%.

The work has been hampered by logistical problems, vaccine shortfalls and time-consuming administrative and consent procedures. The EU has set member states a target of vaccinating 70% of their adult populations by the end of the summer.

Brussels has signed six vaccine contracts to eventually deliver more than 2bn doses. Last week Pfizer announced a temporary reduction in supplies, but the European commission has said full distribution should begin again next week and the backlog will be made up in February.

The UK, by contrast, which approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine nearly a month before the EU and has since also authorised the AstraZeneca shot, has so far administered at least one shot to nearly 7.5% of its population.

YouGov said about 66% of Swedes and 81% of British respondents said in mid-January that they would be willing to have the jab, compared with 45% and 61% respectively two months ago. Italy recorded a 19-point increase from mid-December, to 71%.

There were also increases since mid-November in Denmark (up 13 points, to 80%), Germany (up eight points, to 59%), Finland (19 points, 69%), Spain (18 points, 71%) and Norway (13 points, 70%).

Perhaps most encouragingly, the figures in France, Europe’s most vaccine-sceptical country, also rose sharply. YouGov said 32% of its French respondents said were willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in mid-November and just 24% in mid-December, rising 46% by 20 January, including the few who had already had the jab.

Outside Europe, vaccine acceptance appears to be rising less sharply or even falling. In the US, where YouGov has been tracking attitudes since July, 51% of people now say they are happy to receive the vaccine or have already done so, up nine points.

In Asia, however, people appear slightly less willing to be vaccinated. The most notable shift was in Hong Kong, where vaccine acceptance was 15 percentage points down, at 36%.

Acceptance rates were also down in Malaysia and Thailand (both by four points) and the Philippines (five points). In Saudi Arabia, vaccine acceptance have improved from 42% to 51%.

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