In March 2021, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic still poses a threat to the global population, and is a public health challenge that needs to be overcome. Now more than ever, action is needed to tackle vaccine hesitancy, especially in light of the availability of effective and safe vaccines. A cross-sectional online survey was carried out on a representative random sample of 1011 citizens from the Emilia-Romagna region, in Italy, in January 2021. The questionnaire collected information on socio-demographics, comorbidities, past vaccination refusal, COVID-19-related experiences, risk perception of infection, and likelihood to accept COVID-19 vaccination. Multiple logistic regression analyses and classification tree analyses were performed to identify significant predictors of vaccine hesitancy and to distinguish groups with different levels of hesitancy. Overall, 31.1% of the sample reported hesitancy. Past vaccination refusal was the key discriminating variable followed by perceived risk of infection. Other significant predictors of hesitancy were: ages between 35 and 54 years, female gender, low educational level, low income, and absence of comorbidities. The most common concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine involved safety (54%) and efficacy (27%). Studying the main determinants of vaccine hesitancy can help with targeting vaccination strategies, in order to gain widespread acceptance-a key path to ensure a rapid way out of the current pandemic emergency.
Keywords: COVID-19; Italy; SARS-CoV-2; classification tree; past vaccination refusal; risk perception; survey; vaccine hesitancy; vaccine hesitancy predictors.