AbstractBackgroundAll patients in England within vaccine priority groups were offered a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-April 2021. Clinical record systems contain codes to denote when such an offer has been declined by a patient (although these can in some cases be entered for a variety of other reasons including vaccination delay, or other administrative issues). We set out to describe the patterns of usage of codes for COVID-19 vaccines being declined.MethodsWith the approval of NHS England and using the full pseudonymised primary care records for 57.9 million NHS patients, we identified all patients in key vaccine priority groups: aged over 50, or over 16 and at increased risk from COVID-19 (Clinically Extremely Vulnerable [CEV] or otherwise “at risk”). We describe the proportion of patients recorded as declining a COVID-19 vaccination for each priority group, and by other clinical and demographic factors; whether patients recorded as “declined” subsequently went on to receive a vaccination; and the distribution of code usage across GP practices.ResultsOf 24.5 million patients in priority groups as of May 25th 2021, 89.2% had received a vaccine, 8.8% had neither a vaccination nor a decline recorded, and 663,033 (2.7%) had a decline code recorded. Of patients with a recorded decline, 125,587 (18.9%) were subsequently vaccinated. Subsequent vaccination was slightly more common in the South Asian population than other ethnicities (e.g. 32.3% vs 22.8%, over 65s). The proportion of declining-unvaccinated patients varied strongly with ethnicity (Black 15.3%, South Asian 5.6%, White 1.5% in over 80s); and was higher in patients from more deprived areas. COVID-19 vaccine decline codes were present in almost all practices (98.8%), but with wide variation between practices in rates of usage. Among all priority groups, declining-unvaccinated status was most common in CEV (3.3%).ConclusionsClinical codes indicative of COVID-19 vaccinations being declined are widely used in English general practice. They are substantially more common among Black and South Asian patients, and patients from more deprived areas. There is a need for more detailed survey and/or qualitative research with patients and clinicians to determine the most common reasons for these recorded declines.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory