JOURNAL ARTICLE

COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in a representative working-age population in France: a survey experiment based on vaccine characteristics

Michaël Schwarzinger, Verity Watson, Pierre Arwidson, François Alla, Stéphane Luchini
Lancet. Public Health 2021, 6 (4): e210-e221
33556325

BACKGROUND: Opinion polls on vaccination intentions suggest that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is increasing worldwide; however, the usefulness of opinion polls to prepare mass vaccination campaigns for specific new vaccines and to estimate acceptance in a country's population is limited. We therefore aimed to assess the effects of vaccine characteristics, information on herd immunity, and general practitioner (GP) recommendation on vaccine hesitancy in a representative working-age population in France.

METHODS: In this survey experiment, adults aged 18-64 years residing in France, with no history of SARS-CoV-2 infection, were randomly selected from an online survey research panel in July, 2020, stratified by gender, age, education, household size, and region and area of residence to be representative of the French population. Participants completed an online questionnaire on their background and vaccination behaviour-related variables (including past vaccine compliance, risk factors for severe COVID-19, and COVID-19 perceptions and experience), and were then randomly assigned according to a full factorial design to one of three groups to receive differing information on herd immunity (>50% of adults aged 18-64 years must be immunised [either by vaccination or infection]; >50% of adults must be immunised [either by vaccination or infection]; or no information on herd immunity) and to one of two groups regarding GP recommendation of vaccination (GP recommends vaccination or expresses no opinion). Participants then completed a series of eight discrete choice tasks designed to assess vaccine acceptance or refusal based on hypothetical vaccine characteristics (efficacy [50%, 80%, 90%, or 100%], risk of serious side-effects [1 in 10 000 or 1 in 100 000], location of manufacture [EU, USA, or China], and place of administration [GP practice, local pharmacy, or mass vaccination centre]). Responses were analysed with a two-part model to disentangle outright vaccine refusal (irrespective of vaccine characteristics, defined as opting for no vaccination in all eight tasks) from vaccine hesitancy (acceptance depending on vaccine characteristics).

FINDINGS: Survey responses were collected from 1942 working-age adults, of whom 560 (28·8%) opted for no vaccination in all eight tasks (outright vaccine refusal) and 1382 (71·2%) did not. In our model, outright vaccine refusal and vaccine hesitancy were both significantly associated with female gender, age (with an inverted U-shaped relationship), lower educational level, poor compliance with recommended vaccinations in the past, and no report of specified chronic conditions (ie, no hypertension [for vaccine hesitancy] or no chronic conditions other than hypertension [for outright vaccine refusal]). Outright vaccine refusal was also associated with a lower perceived severity of COVID-19, whereas vaccine hesitancy was lower when herd immunity benefits were communicated and in working versus non-working individuals, and those with experience of COVID-19 (had symptoms or knew someone with COVID-19). For a mass vaccination campaign involving mass vaccination centres and communication of herd immunity benefits, our model predicted outright vaccine refusal in 29·4% (95% CI 28·6-30·2) of the French working-age population. Predicted hesitancy was highest for vaccines manufactured in China with 50% efficacy and a 1 in 10 000 risk of serious side-effects (vaccine acceptance 27·4% [26·8-28·0]), and lowest for a vaccine manufactured in the EU with 90% efficacy and a 1 in 100 000 risk of serious side-effects (vaccine acceptance 61·3% [60·5-62·1]).

INTERPRETATION: COVID-19 vaccine acceptance depends on the characteristics of new vaccines and the national vaccination strategy, among various other factors, in the working-age population in France.

FUNDING: French Public Health Agency (Santé Publique France).

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