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Publication Detail
Predictors of uncertainty and unwillingness to receive the COVID-19 booster vaccine: an observational study of 22,139 fully vaccinated adults in the UK



The continued success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the UK will depend on widespread uptake of booster vaccines. However, there is evidence of hesitancy and unwillingness to receive the booster vaccine, even in fully vaccinated adults. Identifying factors associated with COVID-19 booster vaccine intentions specifically in this population is therefore critical.


We used data from 22,139 fully vaccinated adults who took part in the UCL COVID-19 Social Study. Multinomial logistic regression examined predictors of uncertainty and unwillingness (versus willingness) to receive a COVID-19 booster vaccine (measured 22 November 2021 to 6 December 2021), including (i) socio-demographic factors, (ii) COVID-19 related factors (e.g., having been infected with COVID-19), and (iii) initial intent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the four months following the announcement in the UK that the vaccines had been approved (2 December 2020 to 31 March 2021).


4% of the sample reported that they were uncertain about receiving a COVID-19 booster vaccine, and a further 4% unwilling. Initial uncertainty and unwillingness to accept the first COVID-19 vaccine in 2020-21 were each associated with over five times the risk of being uncertain about and unwilling to accept a booster vaccine. Healthy adults (those without a pre-existing physical health condition) were also more likely to be uncertain or unwilling to receive a booster vaccine. In addition, low levels of current stress about catching or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, consistently low compliance with COVID-19 government guidelines during periods of strict restrictions (e.g., lockdowns), lower levels of educational qualification, lower socio-economic position, and age below 45 years were all associated with uncertainty and unwillingness.


Our findings highlight that there are a range of factors that predict booster intentions, with the strongest predictor being previous uncertainty and unwillingness. Two other concerning patterns also emerged from our results. First, administration of booster vaccinations may increase social inequalities in experiences of COVID-19 as adults from lower socio-economic backgrounds are also most likely to be uncertain or unwilling to accept a booster vaccine as well as most likely to be seriously affected by the virus. Second, some of those most likely to spread COVID-19 (i.e., those with poor compliance with guidelines) are most likely to be uncertain and unwilling. Public health messaging should be tailored specifically to these groups.


The Nuffield Foundation [WEL/FR-000022583], the MARCH Mental Health Network funded by the Cross-Disciplinary Mental Health Network Plus initiative supported by UK Research and Innovation [ES/S002588/1], and the Wellcome Trust [221400/Z/20/Z and 205407/Z/16/Z].
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