Covid-19: We need more than the ‘mum test’ to encourage vaccine uptake


Health officials must do more to provide the public with information about Covid-19 vaccines to encourage uptake, according to an article in a medical journal.

The public need to be presented with “clear, balanced information” on vaccines, an editorial published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin says.

Providing more information could “counter rumours, fake news, unsubstantiated scare stories and overinflated claims of success”, the article states.

The piece, titled Covid-19 Vaccination – We Need More Than The ‘Mum Test’, refers to comments made by England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.

“I think the ‘mum test’ is very important here,” he told the Downing Street vaccine briefing in November.

“My mum is 78, she will be 79 shortly, and I have already said to her ‘Mum, make sure when you are called you are ready, be ready to take this up, this is really important for you because of your age’.”

The article’s author, David Phizackerley, said it is not yet clear how many people will have to be vaccinated to create herd immunity for Covid-19.

He cited a poll which found that 64% of British adults are likely to get a vaccine once one is approved.

Mr Phizackerley, deputy editor of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, said that providing “clear, balanced information on vaccination risks and benefits” has been shown to have an impact on uptake.

He added: “Alongside the practical elements of making vaccination easily accessible, healthcare professionals will need to be supported with information that allows them to discuss what we know and what we don’t know about the harms and benefits of the Covid-19 vaccines.

“In particular, information should be targeted to address people’s concerns over vaccine safety within the context of the known risks from Covid-19.

“It should describe what harms have been reported with Covid-19 vaccines, with what frequency, and what happened to those who had adverse reactions.

“Information on efficacy will need to describe how successful the vaccines have been in clinical trials and what outcomes were assessed.”

People should also be made aware of what is known on transmission, preventing disease, reducing people’s chances, and what impact a vaccine could have for individuals and communities, he added.

“Crucially, it should also set out how vaccination affects the need for social distancing and other preventive measures,” the article adds.

The information should be tailored to different age groups and people with different levels of risk from the disease.

It should also be provided in multiple languages and formats.

“While some people may not be interested in this level of detail, others will want to base their decision on more than press releases and the ‘mum test’,” the piece concludes.

“People should be given this information before vaccines are made available, it says, adding: “Such information will be essential to support national vaccination programmes and to help counter rumours, fake news, unsubstantiated scare stories and overinflated claims of success.”