COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to global public health. Multiple safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 are available with one-third of the global population now vaccinated. Achieving a sufficient level of vaccine coverage to suppress COVID-19 requires, in part, sufficient acceptance among the public. However, relatively high rates of hesitance and resistance to COVID-19 vaccination persists, threating public health efforts to achieve vaccine-induced population protection. In this study, we examined longitudinal changes in COVID-19 vaccine acceptance, hesitance, and resistance in two nations (the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland) during the first nine months of the pandemic, and identified individual and psychological factors associated with consistent non-acceptance of COVID-19 vaccination. Using nationally representative, longitudinal data from the United Kingdom (UK; N = 2025) and Ireland (N = 1041), we found that (1) COVID-19 vaccine acceptance declined in the UK and remained unchanged in Ireland following the emergence of approved vaccines; (2) multiple subgroups existed reflecting people who were consistently willing to be vaccinated (‘Accepters’: 68% in the UK and 61% in Ireland), consistently unwilling to be vaccinated (‘Deniers’: 12% in the UK and 16% in Ireland), and who fluctuated over time (‘Moveable Middle’: 20% in the UK and 23% in Ireland); and (3) the ‘deniers’ and ‘moveable middle’ were distinguishable from the ‘accepters’ on a range of individual (e.g., younger, low income, living alone) and psychological (e.g., distrust of scientists and doctors, conspiracy mindedness) factors. The use of two high-income, Western European nations limits the generalizability of these findings. Nevertheless, understanding how receptibility to COVID-19 vaccination changes as the pandemic unfolds, and the factors that distinguish and characterise those that are hesitant and resistant to vaccination is helpful for public health efforts to achieve vaccine-induced population protection against COVID-19.


This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Hyland, P., Vallières, F., Hartman, T., McKay, R., Butter, S., Bentall, R., McBride, O., Shevlin, M., Bennett, K., Mason, L., Gibson-Miller, J., Levita, L., Martinez, A., Stocks, T., Karatzias, T. & Murphy, J. 2021, 'Detecting and describing stability and change in COVID-19 vaccine receptibility in the United Kingdom and Ireland', PLoS ONE, 16(11), article no: e025887. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0258871

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Last updated: 03 September 2022
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