POLITICS ACROSS THE POND: Why would a citizen refuse a potentially life-saving vaccination? Member of the UK Parliament, Andrew Bridgen weighs in on the politics of vaccine reluctance in his column for The Pavlovic Today.

There is a well-used saying that “hope sustains,” and all the hope at the moment appears to be that the various vaccines now approved and those still undergoing development will bring an end to the pandemic and the associated restrictions. Meanwhile, countries worldwide continue to chase vaccine supplies for their populations who are increasingly tired of the lockdown measures. Indeed without the salvation of vaccination, it seems increasingly unlikely that the citizens will continue to comply with their governments’ demands for continued transmission, suppressing lockdowns. Civil unrest is being seen in parts of the world where their governments are judged to have failed to secure the vaccine’s timely supply.

The scientists and experts who have taken center stage, and whose recommendations have massively influenced all of our lives for the last 12 months, have invented and brought into common usage a new phrase, “vaccine reluctance.” This is the refusal of an individual within the population to take a vaccine when offered it.

Why, when we are being told that vaccination is the only way out of this crisis and international relations are being strained due to the competition for these valuable resources, would a citizen refuse a potentially life-saving vaccination? And does it matter?

The reasons for vaccine reluctance are certainly many and varied, some clearly will have concerns due to allergic reactions, but mostly it’s about trust.: trust in governments, trust in the scientists, and trust in big pharma. Interestingly the levels of reported vaccine reluctance vary considerably within the population of a country.

A study of this phenomenon was recently published in the well-respected scientific journal Nature Medicine. It studied the differing attitudes to accepting the vaccine in 19 countries, and the data was weighted for age, income, and level of education. The results make interesting reading.

The very successful UK roll-out of the vaccine has so far achieved over an 85% take-up, given that this is in the demographic groups facing the most risk from the virus, such an acceptance rate is perhaps not surprising. There is cause for some concern within these figures as take-up within the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) population in the UK is markedly lower, despite their risk of severe illness or death from infection being considered higher than the average of their age group cohort.

The study’s outliers are very interesting and show us that the Chinese population with its own state-produced vaccine is the most willing to be vaccinated, or perhaps the least willing to defy the state. The Russian populous, also with its own state-produced vaccine being the most reluctant, given the Putin regime’s recent much-reported actions, is not surprising.

The figures are clearly a vote of confidence or otherwise in their respective scientists and governments. Many of the vaccines on offer, particularly in developed countries, are the product of international collaboration. I think it’s more about public confidence in their Government. We are seeing a situation where some individuals have decided that their lack of trust in their government outweighs their fear of serious illness or death from the virus, and this is very telling.

I expect to be offered the vaccine before the end of April, and I will take it. Still, I am vehemently opposed to any moves to mandatory Government vaccination programs, which I believe would be both a gross infringement of human rights and counter-productive.

Finally, these figures should surely be of more than passing interest to any elected politician facing elections in the near future. Perhaps things are not looking so good for President Macron? 

Read also: Andrew BRIDGEN: The vaccination scandal is an existential threat to the EU

Andrew Bridgen

Andrew Bridgen is a Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire.