Understanding COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy in context: Findings from a qualitative study involving citizens in Bradford, UK

Health Expect. 2021 Aug;24(4):1158-1167. doi: 10.1111/hex.13240. Epub 2021 May 4.


Background: COVID-19 vaccines can offer a route out of the pandemic, yet initial research suggests that many are unwilling to be vaccinated. A rise in the spread of misinformation is thought to have played a significant role in vaccine hesitancy. To maximize uptake, it is important to understand why misinformation has been able to take hold at this time and why it may pose a more significant problem within certain contexts.

Objective: To understand people's COVID-19 beliefs, their interactions with (mis)information during COVID-19 and attitudes towards a COVID-19 vaccine.

Design and participants: Bradford, UK, was chosen as the study site to provide evidence to local decision makers. In-depth phone interviews were carried out with 20 people from different ethnic groups and areas of Bradford during Autumn 2020. Reflexive thematic analysis was conducted.

Results: Participants discussed a wide range of COVID-19 misinformation they had encountered, resulting in confusion, distress and mistrust. Vaccine hesitancy could be attributed to three prominent factors: safety concerns, negative stories and personal knowledge. The more confused, distressed and mistrusting participants felt about their social worlds during the pandemic, the less positive they were about a vaccine.

Conclusions: COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy needs to be understood in the context of the relationship between the spread of misinformation and associated emotional reactions. Vaccine programmes should provide a focused, localized and empathetic response to counter misinformation.

Patient or public contribution: A rapid community and stakeholder engagement process was undertaken to identify COVID-19 priority topics important to Bradford citizens and decision makers.

Keywords: Bradford; COVID-19; misinformation; qualitative; vaccine hesitancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United Kingdom
  • Vaccines*


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Vaccines