National survey of attitudes towards and intentions to vaccinate against COVID-19: implications for communications

This paper is the first output from the project and focuses on the results of the quantitative survey.
A nurse or doctor applying a plaster to another patients arm after a vaccine.

About the study

This paper is the first output from the project and focuses on the results of the quantitative survey. It examines public views on COVID-19 vaccination and considers the implications for communications and targeted support.

The Public Attitudes to COVID-19 Vaccination study is an ESRC-funded study conducted in collaboration with the University of Stirling. It aimed to understand public attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination at the early stages of vaccine rollout in Great Britain, identify barriers and facilitators to uptake and develop strategies for optimising vaccine uptake.


Eighty-three per cent of people had accepted or intended to accept the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Ten per cent were uncertain and seven per cent had refused or intended to.
  • Likelihood of accepting the vaccine increased with age, and also highest educational qualification
  • However, people finding things difficult financially and people from minority ethnic groups were less likely to accept the vaccine
  • People who thought they had probably or definitely had COVID-19 were less likely to indicate they would accept the vaccine

The three most trusted information sources on the COVID-19 vaccine were the NHS, healthcare professionals and scientific/medical advisers – trusted by around 80% of people

  • Only 44% of people trusted the UK government completely or a great deal.
  • The three least trusted sources were celebrities & social media influencers, social media, and faith or community leaders - around two-thirds indicated they would have no trust in each.
  • A majority (61%) indicated they had very little or no trust in the media

Nine in 10 participants rated healthcare professionals as highest priority for vaccination.

  • Over 70% indicated those with serious health conditions/heightened vulnerability to COVID-19, care home workers and residents, and over 80s should be ‘one of the first’ to be vaccinated.
  • Priority was also given to social care workers, schoolteachers and those directly working with the public. Over one-third considered each of these groups should be ‘one of the first’ to be vaccinated.
  • People aged under 18 were rated as lowest priority, and 6% considered the vaccine should not be offered to this group.


Fieldwork for this strand of the study was conducted using the random-probability NatCen Panel. The NatCen Panel is a panel of people recruited from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, a high-quality, random probability survey. Those agreeing to join the Panel are then invited to take part in additional short surveys covering a range of different topics either online or over the phone. By using a probability-based sample and allowing those without internet access to take part this design reduces the risk of bias compared to online-only surveys which exclude those who do not have access to, or are less confident using, the internet or surveys using convenience samples which are more likely to include people who are more ‘available’ or particularly want to express their views.

Fieldwork for this study began on 14th January 2021 and ended on 7th February 2021, during which time the number of people in the UK who had received their first vaccine dose rose from 3.2 million to 12.3 million. A total of 4,987 of the 5,931 panel members invited to take part did so, giving an 84% survey response rate. Taking account of nonresponse at the BSA interview and at the point of recruitment to the panel, the overall response rate was 9%.

Research team

Martine Stead, Curtis Jessop (NatCen), Kathryn Angus, Helen Bedford, Michael Ussher, Allison Ford, Douglas Eadie, Andy McGregor (NatCen), Kate Hunt, Anne Marie MacKintosh