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Derbyshire survey identifies reasons behind vaccine hesitancy

A Derbyshire survey has identified some of the main reasons why residents are hesitant about getting a Covid-19 vaccine.

Dean Wallace, public health director for Derbyshire County Council, stressed that there was a clear difference between those who are vaccine hesitant and Covid-19 "deniers" who do not believe in the virus or in vaccination.

The survey, conducted by patient watchdog Healthwatch Derbyshire, had more than 500 responses and found the key reasons for vaccine hesitancy were the potential side-effects of the jab on health and the overall safety of the jabs themselves.

Helen Henderson-Spoors, chief executive of Healthwatch Derbyshire, told a council health and wellbeing meeting on Thursday (8 July) that most vaccine hesitant residents who are “concerned and anxious” just need the right advice to be able to make an “informed choice”.

She detailed that more specific reasons included: Needle phobia, allergies, mental health, previous reactions to medication and the potential risks to pregnancy and fertility.

Concerns around pregnancy and fertility were also prevalent in young people in Derbyshire.

The research found that a portion of residents simply wanted to wait longer to see if there were any side effects of the vaccines before they had their own jab.

Here is a selection of responses from those who took part in the study: “I don’t know the long-term effects or what might happen later in my life – if I was elderly/older I wouldn’t worry so much.” 

“Don’t feel like I know enough about the vaccination, it all came out very quickly. I’m scared of what’s in the vaccination as I have seen what is in it and I also have concerns for any future problems it may cause that nobody will know yet.” 

“I have my doubts about taking the vaccine because I’m worried it will cause problems with my long-term condition, and I had Covid last year and am still suffering effects from it so I don’t want to risk the vaccine making the effects worse than they already are."

“I feel the trials were too rushed despite being told that they have been checked and found safe."

“As someone who is super fit with absolutely no underlying health conditions and of a healthy weight, I do not perceive Covid to be any risk to me. I am not concerned about Long Covid. Therefore, I would literally just be taking this vaccine for ‘the greater good’ to protect those not able to have it. Something I will be very happy to do in a few years’ time once far more is known about its wider implications for some people.”

During the meeting, Cllr Carol Hart, leader of Erewash Borough Council and a county council cabinet member for health, said: “There are some people that will not have the vaccines no matter what, some people just don’t understand it and there are some hard-to-reach groups left.

“There are always going to be people who want the vaccine as soon as possible and then those who are more wary.

“Some want to wait longer to see the impact and it is going to be harder to get them over the line, but we are making good progress.”

Dr Chris Clayton, chief executive of the Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Whilst we are doing really well, and we are, the figures for Derbyshire are really encouraging, we want everyone who is able to have a vaccine to have one.

“We have got work to do with our younger adults.”

Figures to June 27 show 87.6 per cent of all Derbyshire residents aged 18 and above have now had their first vaccine dose, while 68.93 per cent of all 18+ residents have had both jab doses.

An estimated 98,550 Derbyshire residents aged 18+ are yet to have a Covid vaccine, 12,452 of which are aged 50 and above, as of June 27.

Mr Wallace told the meeting of the work being carried out to separate “fact” from “fiction”.

He said: “We need to separate the vaccine hesitancy from the people who just don’t believe, the Covid deniers who don’t believe in vaccination.

“No vaccine gets a license without going through rigorous trials and no medicine is without potential side effects.

“When weighing up the risk of Covid versus the risk of the vaccine, the best thing we can do to protect ourselves, our families and our loved ones is to get a vaccine.”

He said more work is being done to assess the impact of Long Covid in Derbyshire and there will be work to look at what impact the virus could have this winter and wider impacts of the pandemic on particular portions of the county’s population.

Mr Wallace said: “We are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot yet and we need to keep at it to prevent variants that have better vaccine escape from being created.”

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