Help the escape: Accept your Covid jab

It is our only route out of a crisis that has dominated our lives in the past year.

But figures suggest more than one in 10 of those being offered a coronavirus vaccine in the West Midlands will refuse to take it up.

Experts speak of their concern at a “tsunami of misinformation” that is circulating on social media and putting people off getting protected.

Today the Express & Star publishes myth-busting information on Covid and the vaccines that have arrived to offer us a means of escape.

The advice forms part of a new official information booklet that has been released and is available to download, all aimed at persuading those who a reluctant to accept the vaccine.

It comes as the West Midlands significantly ramps up vaccinations, with the mass arrival of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine into GP surgeries and care homes. Nationally it is hoped 200,000 jabs will be given every day, a step to a target of two million vaccinations a week.

Dr Kewal Krishan, of Mayfield Medical Practice in Wolverhampton, said it had taken 400 doses of the Oxford vaccine to care homes over the weekend.

Patients coming into the centre were also given the Pfizer vaccine.

He said the process was starting to accelerate, adding: “We have been promised there will be more supplies coming in shortly.”

Tsunami of misinformation creating confusion and fright

A “tsunami” of misinformation has contributed to a drop in willingness among people to get a coronavirus vaccine, an expert has said.

There was a ten-fold increase in misinterpretations and “purposeful diversions” as the conversation around vaccines ramped up in the latter part of last year.

It is a challenge for experts, who know that as thousands of messages and letters are sent out to over-70s and the vulnerable in the next few weeks there are a proportion that will end up being ignored.

Professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said research from December showed the UK was “not bad” in terms of intent to get vaccinated against the virus, but there was still a minority who needed persuading.

Figures from her project suggest almost half of participants in the UK said they definitely would get a jab, and almost a third said they probably would. Around eight per cent said they definitely would not, a lower percentage than the likes of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US.

Those figures roughly reflect those in the West Midlands, although here the number saying they would refuse the jab was higher at 13 per cent. An survey carried out in December also revealed 73 per cent were willing to have the jab and 14 per cent were unsure. Our survey also showed that a significant minority – 11 per cent – continued to be concerned about the safety of vaccinations.

Prof Larson said that in general, willingness around the vaccine was “relatively high” in April and May but since discussion around vaccines had increased, that had ebbed away.

Speaking during a Royal Society of Medicine webinar, Prof Larson said: “As the summer went on and the imminent threat of the pandemic felt like it was waning – even though all signals said it’s going to come back – the willingness to take a vaccine, by September, had dropped quite a bit. It inched up a little bit in October when you started to see the resurgence pretty badly of the virus and it was looking pretty bad again.

“But also what’s happened, and I think part of the contribution to the dropping willingness, was that there was a lot more out there in the media, in the discussions about the vaccine candidates that there weren’t in April/May. And with all that new information about the multiple vaccines, all the trials, all the differences, came a whole tsunami of misinformation.”

“So for every new piece of information about vaccines, there was I would say almost ten-fold of all kinds of interpretations of it, and misinterpretations, and purposeful diversions.”

Professor Michael Parker, director of the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, who also took part in the discussion, said people needed to be better at recognising “there’s no risk-free option here”.

He said: “There are people who think these vaccines are risky but lockdowns are risky, travel movements are risky, taking kids out of school is risky, and not having a lockdown and just letting the virus run free is also risky.”

He said that while he felt there was a “very strong moral obligation to take the vaccine”, that was not the same as saying it should be compulsory.

There were a number of factors as to why a mandatory approach might not be beneficial, he said, including that it might not be the most effective way of getting more people to have the jab.

Discussing the idea of compelling healthcare workers to take the vaccine, he said that could also be problematic.

He said: “The last thing we want is loads of people leaving (the NHS) because they don’t want to have the vaccination, so let’s be realistic about it.”

But he added: “I think there’s a strong case for compulsion (for healthcare workers working with vulnerable groups) but it may well be outweighed by the practicalities of a health service under strain.”

He said a nurse had tried to convince him that vaccination was a bad idea, and that while he believed it was “completely up to her” to make her own decision on vaccinations for herself, it “ought to be a disciplinary offence for someone to be trying to convince patients”.

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