COVID-19 vaccine faces an increasingly hesitant public

A majority in the USA, UK, France Germany and Italy are ‘likely’ to take the coronavirus vaccine, but a much smaller percentage said they would ‘definitely’ take it.
23 November 2020
vaccine covid19 europe
Emmanuel Rivière

CEO, Public Division, France

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Only a minority of the public across major economies will ‘definitely’ take a vaccine for coronavirus when it becomes available, Kantar research has found. The study, conducted after a vaccine presenting as 90% effective in stage three clinical trials was announced by Pfizer, also indicates an increasing hesitancy among the general population to commit to any new vaccine.

Across the USA, UK, France Germany and Italy, the rate at which the public are committed to participating in vaccination efforts correlates to the rate at which the public strongly believe in the safety of vaccines in general. These findings present a major challenge for governments around the world aiming to control the COVID-19 pandemic and get their economies back on track in 2021.

A study of 1,000 nationally representative people each in the USA, UK, France Germany and Italy showed that while a majority of people an all countries are at least likely to take the vaccine, a much smaller percentage, ranging from just 21% in France to just 43% in the UK, said they would ‘definitely’ take the vaccine. Further, the hesitancy to take a vaccine had increased in every country since June 2020, when Kantar last asked the question.


Only 43% of Britons have said they would ‘definitely’ take the new vaccine – while 34% ‘strongly agree’ that, generically, vaccines are safe. In comparison only 21% of French citizens say they would ‘definitely’ take a vaccine, closely aligning with the only 14% of French citizens who ‘strongly agree’ that vaccines are safe.

Across all five countries studied the percentage of individuals who say they would ‘definitely’ take a vaccine has fallen. The most precipitous fall is in the USA where those saying they would ‘definitely’ take a vaccine has fallen from 47% in June to just 30% at the end of last week. The growing hesitation about the vaccine seems to be linked to the conditions under which it was developed and tested. In 4 of the 5 countries a majority expressed concern about the safety of vaccines because of the speed with which they are developed and produced. This proportion rises to 69% in France. Germans express less concern (41%) than citizens of other countries. However, in addition to these 41%, 28% are unsure.

Trust in government also appears to be a factor in vaccine hesitancy. Germans trust their government the most – but even there, only one in three say they trust their government ‘a lot’ to ‘make the right decisions about making a vaccine available’. France again has the lowest trust level

The findings are potentially alarming for governments around the world. When less than half the population of a nation say they will ‘definitely’ take a vaccine, this implies that governments will have a huge task ahead of them in building up trust in any approved vaccine, and in mobilizing their nations to actually become inoculated. It is only those who are motivated who will proactively seek out the immunization process. Everyone else will have to be persuaded, or the barriers to inoculation will have to be so low as to ensure that those saying that they will ‘probably’ take a vaccine actually end up being vaccinated.

All the governments in the countries included in our study will be drawing on the best of government communications capability and behavior insight to ensure that they can implement their vaccination programs to protect their citizens against COVID-19. But there are important differences between nations, as each manages different levels of citizen trust in policy and in the pharmaceutical sector. There is a long journey ahead on this.


A total of 1,000 interviews were conducted in each country among adults living in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and the USA between 10 and 14 November using Kantar’s Accelerated Answers service across respondents on the Kantar Profiles Network. All interviews were conducted as online self-completion. Further findings are available on request. 

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