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

Publication authors

Bridget Lockyer, Shahid Islam, Aamnah Rahman, Josie Dickerson, Kate Pickett, Trevor Sheldon, John Wright, Rosemary McEachan, Laura Sheard


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 this vaccine hesitancy. In order to maximise vaccine 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 populations and places.

Objective To understand people’s Covid-19 beliefs, their interactions with health (mis)information during Covid-19 and attitudes towards a Covid-19 vaccine.

Design and participants 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 spoke about a wide range of emotive misinformation they had encountered regarding Covid-19, 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, localised and empathetic response to counter misinformation.

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

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Clinical Protocols


Funding Statement

This study was supported by the following research funding: The Health foundation Covid-19 Award (2301201). A Wellcome Trust infrastructure grant (WT101597MA). The National Institute for Health Research under its Applied Research Collaboration Yorkshire and Humber (NIHR200166). ActEarly UK Prevention Research Partnership Consortium (MR/S037527/1)

Author Declarations

I confirm all relevant ethical guidelines have been followed, and any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained.


The details of the IRB/oversight body that provided approval or exemption for the research described are given below:

University of York ethical approval was secured in July 2020 (Ref: HSRGC/2020/400/G).

All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.