Covid conspiracy theories lead one fifth of Brits to say they’ll refuse vaccine

Researchers around the world are racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with close to 200 possible vaccines in development.

But even when the vaccine is eventually released, a fifth of Brits would probably refuse to take it, according to a shock report.

Researchers from Cambridge University looked into the various conspiracy theories around Covid-19, and found a range of bizarre beliefs about the pandemic were surprisingly popular.

From just over 2,000 randomly-selected Brits, 20% said they would refuse any potential Covid jab.

Even more, some 23%, were convinced that the pandemic wasn’t caused by a naturally-occurring virus and was genetically-engineered in a Chinese bioweapons lab.

Looking at more fringe beliefs, well over 12% think the pandemic is art of a deliberate campaign to vaccinate the world’s entire population and 8% – almost one in 10 – think that 5G mobile phone networks somehow cause the infection.

Outlandish ideas about preventing the virus were also surprisingly popular, with just over 10% sure that gargling with salt water or lemon juice can reduce the risk of infection, and 7% pretty sure that firing a hair dryer up their nose would do the trick.

Associate Professor of Social Psychology Sander van der Linden, co-author of the study and director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab, commented: "Certain misinformation claims are consistently seen as reliable by substantial sections of the public."

He added: "We find a clear link between believing coronavirus conspiracies and hesitancy around any future vaccine."

There appears to be a relationship between age and willingness to swallow conspiracy theories. Older people were more likely to rely on traditional news sources for their information and were less likely to fall for conspiracy theories while many of the younger people surveyed got most of their news from social media, where disinformation and unsubstantiated rumours can thrive.

Researchers surveyed 2,200 people in the UK, as well as 700 in each of four other European countries, in April and May this year. The results are published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

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