Queen could help boost public’s trust in coronavirus vaccine, expert says


The Queen could be called on to help boost the public's trust in a coronavirus vaccine, a Government adviser has suggested.

Vaccine misinformation expert Professor Heidi Larson said she feared that people's concerns about vaccine safety were not being addressed, which could result in them not taking it.

It comes as scientists warned that a working Covid-19 vaccine "might not be enough" to end the pandemic unless governments and technology firms tackle coronavirus misinformation.

In an interview with The Times, Prof Larson, who leads the Vaccine Confidence Project, said the Queen could help build trust in the older generation.

She said: "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 (the Queen) gets.

"And she's certainly in that older cohort, so I think that's actually really, really smart."

Prof Larson said the "big question" would be whether the Queen, who is aged 94, would get a vaccine.

"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," she added.

Prof Larson said while she would not want to put the Queen "in a spot", the monarch was an "important voice".

She said a communication strategy responding to "emerging concerns" around vaccines was key, rather than simply "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," Prof Larson added.

In a study involving five countries, including the UK, scientists found a "clear link" between Covid-19 conspiracy theories and hesitancy around future coronavirus vaccines.

While a majority of those surveyed judged the misinformation to be unreliable, the researchers said they found certain conspiracy theories to have taken hold in "significant portions of the population".

Dr Sander van der Linden, who is director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and one of the authors on the study, said: "We find a clear link between believing coronavirus conspiracies and hesitancy around any future vaccine.

"As well as flagging false claims, governments and technology companies should explore ways to increase digital media literacy in the population.

"Otherwise, developing a working vaccine might not be enough."

A Government spokesperson 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."