Objectives: Concern about side effects is one of the most common reasons for refusing vaccination. Side-effect expectations are known to predict perception of side effects. We aimed to investigate the percentage of people who thought side effects from COVID-19 vaccination were likely and investigate factors associated with side-effect expectation.
Methods: Online cross-sectional survey of 1470 UK adults who had not been vaccinated for COVID-19 (conducted 13 to 15 January 2021). We asked participants how likely they thought side effects from COVID-19 vaccination were. Linear regression analyses were used to investigate associations with side-effect expectations.
Results: Most participants were uncertain whether they would experience side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine; only a minority reported that side effects were very likely (9.4%, 95% CI 7.9% to 10.9%, n = 138/1470). Personal and clinical characteristics, general, and COVID-19 vaccination beliefs and attitudes explained 29.7% of the variance in side-effect expectation, with COVID-19 vaccination beliefs alone accounting for 17.2%. Side-effect expectations were associated with: older age, being clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, being afraid of needles, lower perceived social norms for COVID-19 vaccination, lower perceived necessity and safety of COVID-19 vaccination, and perceived lack of information about COVID-19 and vaccination.
Conclusions: Side-effect expectation was associated with believing that COVID-19 vaccination was unsafe, ineffective and that others would be less likely to approve of you having a COVID-19 vaccination. Communications should emphasise the safety, effectiveness, and widespread uptake of vaccination, while promoting accurate perceptions of the incidence of vaccination side effects.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information: Data collection was funded by a Keele University Faculty of Natural Sciences Research Development award to SS, JS and NS, and a King’s COVID Appeal Fund award granted jointly to LS, GJR, RA, NS, SS and JS. NS’ research is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South London at King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust . NS is a member of King's Improvement Science, which offers co-funding to the NIHR ARC South London and is funded by Kings Health Partners (Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust , King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Kings College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust), and the Guy's and St Thomas' Foundation. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the charities, UK Health Security Agency or the Department of Health and Social Care.
Open Access: No Open Access licence.
Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Elsevier Inc.
Citation: Louise E. Smith, Julius Sim, Richard Amlôt, Megan Cutts, Hannah Dasch, Nick Sevdalis, G. James Rubin, Susan M. Sherman, Side-effect expectations from COVID-19 vaccination: Findings from a nationally representative cross-sectional survey (CoVAccS – wave 2), Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 152, 2022, 110679, ISSN 0022-3999.
- Adverse effects
- Nocebo effect