Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

The Queen may be used by UK government to boost public trust in Covid-19 vaccine

The Queen could be called on to boost public trust in coronavirus vaccines, a government adviser has claimed.

Ministers have been told her majesty and other trusted figures could be used to fight against dangerous anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

Professor Heidi Larson said the 94-year-old monarch would be the best person to reassure the elderly to take the jab.

The American vaccine misinformation expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the Times: "If there's one thing I've seen, and I've been here [in the UK] for over a decade now, it's the trust that she gets. And she's certainly in that older cohort, so I think that's actually really, really smart.

"Here's the big question – will she get a vaccine? That may be a difficult one. I think the Palace is going to have to decide for themselves – do you want to risk a new vaccine on the Queen?

"Or do you want to keep her isolated? They're going to have to weigh those risks. So I wouldn't want to put her in a spot – but she is an important voice."

Prof Larson is worried that Brits are not getting answers to genuine questions over the safety of would-be coronavirus vaccines.

She led research by the Vaccine Confidence Project which found around half of the public "strongly agrees" that vaccines are safe.

A YouGov poll in July also found one in ten Brits said they would not get a Covid jab and a further 20 per cent were unsure.

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Prof Larson said: "One of the keys is going to be designing communication strategies that are responsive to these emerging concerns, not brushing them off.

"I've been called into a number of discussions [with the government] on this. It's not clear to me that there's a coherent communication strategy."

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A vaccination programme needs as much as 80% of the population inoculated to achieve herd immunity, which is needed to come out of lockdown without risking huge surges of the virus.

A government spokesman said: "The science is clear – vaccines save lives, which is why we are leading a global effort to find a Covid-19 vaccine.

"Vaccine misinformation in any form is completely unacceptable and it is everyone's responsibility to seek NHS advice, so that they have the right information to make the right choice.

"Since the start of the pandemic, specialist UK government units have also been working rapidly to identify and rebut false information about coronavirus, including working closely with social media companies.

"We are also developing world-leading plans to protect people online and will introduce legislation as soon as possible."

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