By Alexis Palmer-Fluevog

Researchers from Ontario indicate that about 80% of students enrolled at a large Canadian university between June and October 2020, prior to the availability of vaccines, intended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine once it was offered. In their recent publication in PLOS One, the researchers highlight personal perspectives around COVID-19 vaccines and explore the willingness of students to receive a vaccine. Factors associated with willingness to get vaccinated included being personally affected by COVID-19, perception of severity of COVID-19, and being encouraged by their doctor or pharmacist.

As university students flock back to university campuses this fall, vaccine uptake among students is important to ensure safer in-class learning. Dr. Madeline Mant and colleagues from Ontario polled students in two phases (June/July 2020 and September/October 2020) at an unnamed large Canadian university to explore their willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The study reported that approximately 80% of enrolled students intended to receive vaccines once they were widely available.

Key Points:

  • 8% of students polled in the first phase (June/July 2020) and 79.8% of university students polled in the second phase (September/October 2020) intended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Factors associated with willingness to receive the vaccine included being personally affected by COVID-19, a perception that COVID-19 Is a serious issue, and being encouraged by their doctor or pharmacist.
  • Most common reasons selected for receiving a vaccine: to avoid catching COVID-19, to avoid illness, and believing that vaccines are safe.
  • Most common reasons selected for not receiving the vaccine: concerns about insufficient testing and worries about side effects.

Authors used online surveys and interviews with students at the time to gather responses. Interviews with a select number of participants were conducted after the surveys. In both surveys, most participants stated that they were willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, though many indicated they did not plan to receive it immediately when it became available to them.

It was observed that during both time points of the study, an individual’s perception of the severity of COVID-19 was associated with motivation to get vaccinated. The authors also highlighted the relationship between individuals getting a recommendation from their health professional and willingness to receive the vaccine, reinforcing the idea that trusted healthcare workers have an important role in influencing vaccine uptake. Importantly, although most students reported intentions to be vaccinated, they also expressed hesitation about vaccine safety and the speed at which these products were developed. All of this points to the importance of maintaining trust in public health as well as clear scientific communication and public health messaging in order to promote vaccine uptake.

The CITF funds several seroprevalence studies in educational settings, including university campuses. Additional information on these studies can be accessed here.

 

Mant M, Aslemand A, Prine A, Jaagumägi Holland A, 2021. University students’ perspectives, planned uptake, and hesitancy regarding the COVID-19 vaccine: A multi-methods study. PLOS One, 2021 Aug 3; 16(8):e0255447. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0255447