Is a quarter of Northern Ireland’s COVID-19 unvaccinated population unlikely to get jab?

CLAIM: A quarter of Northern Ireland’s population that is unvaccinated for COVID-19 is unlikely to ever get the vaccine.

CONCLUSION: ACCURATE WITH CONSIDERATION. A survey by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) reported that 24% of respondents who had not been vaccinated said that they were “fairly unlikely” or “very unlikely” to get the vaccine. However the headline fails to give context. Only 22% of respondents have not been vaccinated, so the cohort unlikely to get the vaccine represents 5% of those surveyed. 

On 29 July 2021, the News Letter published a tweet (since deleted; screenshot below) that stated, “Significant chunk of NI public just do not want the [COVID-19] vaccine, new polling shows.”

The tweet linked to the newspaper’s online article with the headline, “Covid-19: Quarter of Northern Ireland’s unvaccinated population unlikely to ever get the jab”, and standfirst (or subheadline), “Polling done by the NI Statistics and Research Agency [NISRA] has shown that a significant chunk of Northern Irish people who have yet to be vaccinated do not wish to avail of the jabs at all.”

The cited poll was the NISRA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Opinion survey. Those surveyed were asked whether they have received the vaccine.

Those who answered “no” (22%) were then asked “How likely or unlikely are you to have the vaccine for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?”, with choices “very likely”, “fairly likely”, “fairly unlikely”, or “very unlikely”. Those who answered “fairly unlikely” or “very unlikely” (24% combined) were then asked “for what reason(s) are you unlikely to have a vaccine for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Statistics in context

The NISRA survey suggests that a quarter of those who are unvaccinated in Northern Ireland are unlikely to get vaccinated. It is important to read this in the context of the 78% of respondents who answered that they were already vaccinated.

Therefore, of the 22% currently unvaccinated — 24% indicated that they were unlikely to get vaccinated for COVID-19. This figure represents 5% of all survey respondents.

This context beyond the headlines associated with the survey results allows a more nuanced — and accurate — reading of its findings.

The survey results further details  why the 5% of respondents have indicated that they’re unlikely to get vaccinated. This may provide useful information for public health officials as well as those of us wanting to learn about fears, concerns and ideologies influencing people’s preferences and opinions.