Media distrust, side effects fears drive Belgian vaccine hesitancy

The study, which was carried out by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)’s spin off research association iCense, was carried out in an attempt to gauge people’s attitude towards COVID-19 vaccines and support government efforts to advance vaccination plans. [Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis]

COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Belgium is being fuelled by a fear of side effects and a distrust in media information, according to a new study, which found that only 33% of those unvaccinated plan to get the jab in the future.

The study, which was carried out by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)’s spin off research association iCense, was carried out in an attempt to gauge people’s attitude towards COVID-19 vaccines and support government efforts to advance vaccination plans.

It found that although most Belgians believe that the vaccine is effective in lowering the risk of contracting the COVID-19 and that vaccination is the best way to return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle, around one third of the Belgian population has “serious concerns” about the side effects of the vaccine.

The preliminary results of the study indicated that while most Belgians have a positive attitude towards the vaccination or are willing to get vaccinated (around 85% in total), almost 50% of the citizens who have not yet been vaccinated do not intend to get the jab in the future.

Acceptance of the vaccine was found to vary between Belgian regions and correlate closely with education level, the authors found.

It also concluded that halting the roll out of vaccines in certain countries has “seriously damaged confidence in vaccines and undermined vaccine readiness in Belgium,” according to a press release published on Monday.

This means that changes to vaccination programmes in other EU countries had a notable impact on the attitude and choice of Belgian citizens with regards to the vaccine, the authors noted, proposing that the study be extended across the EU to more effectively understand the underlying motivations behind vaccine hesitancy.

(Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe