Background: The aim of this work was to explore barriers and facilitators to uptake of COVID-19 vaccines and to explore views and reactions to efforts to improve vaccine uptake among vaccine hesitant individuals. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with people between the age of 18–29 years who had not had a COVID-19 vaccine, and those between 30 and 49 years who had not had a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Results: A total of 70 participants took part in the study, 35 participants had received one dose, and 35 had not been vaccinated. Participants described a willingness to be vaccinated to keep themselves and those around them safe and to avoid restrictions. Barriers to uptake included: (1) perceived lack of need for COVID-19 vaccinations, (2) concerns about the efficacy of vaccinations, (3) concerns about safety, and (4) access issues. Uptake appeared to be influenced by age and health status, trust in government, and knowledge and understanding of science. Introduction of vaccine passes may provide a motive for having a vaccine but may be viewed as coercive. Conclusion: Participants were hesitant, rather than opposed, and had questions about their need for, and the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Young people did not consider themselves to be at risk of becoming ill from COVID-19, did not think the vaccination was effective in preventing transmission, and did not think sufficient research had been conducted regarding possible long-term side-effects. Concerns were exacerbated by a lack of trust in government, and misunderstanding of science. To promote uptake, public health campaigns should focus on the provision of information from trusted sources that explains the benefits of vaccination and addresses safety concerns more effectively. To overcome inertia in people with low levels of motivation to be vaccinated, appointments must be easily accessible.
BMC Infectious Diseases