Perceptions and attitudes towards Covid-19 vaccines: narratives from members of the UK public


A new journal article by Btihaj Ajana, Elena Engstler, Anas Ismail and Marina Kousta, addressing public perceptions and attitudes towards Covid-19 vaccines.

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The aim of the paper is to enhance understanding of how members of the public make sense of the Covid-19 vaccines and to understand the factors influencing their attitudes towards such artefacts of pandemic governance.


The paper draws on 23 online in-depth interviews with members of the UK public and builds on relevant literature to examine participants’ perceptions of the benefits and risks of Covid-19 vaccines, the sources that have shaped their attitudes, and the level of trust they have towards the government’s handling of the pandemic through vaccines.


The findings indicate that participants generally felt that the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh the risks and that Covid-19 vaccines are a crucial mechanism for enabling society to return to normal. Vaccine acceptance was, for some, strongly linked to a sense of social responsibility and the duty to protect others. However, some participants expressed concerns with regard to the side-effects of Covid-19 vaccines and their perceived potential impact on fertility and DNA makeup. Participants used various sources of information to learn about Covid-19 vaccines and understand their function, benefits, and risks. The majority of participants criticised the government’s response during the early stages of the pandemic yet felt positive about the vaccine rollout.


Just as with any other vaccination programme, the success of the Covid-19 immunisation campaigns does not only depend on the efficacy of the vaccines themselves or the ability to secure access to them, but also on a myriad of other factors which include public compliance and trust in governments and health authorities. To support an effective immunisation campaign that is capable of bringing the pandemic to an end, governments need to understand public concerns, garner trust, and devise adequate strategies for engaging the public and building more resilient societies.