Older adults' vaccine hesitancy: psychosocial factors associated with influenza, pneumococcal, and shingles vaccine uptake

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Influenza, pneumococcal disease, and shingles (herpes zoster) are more prevalent in older people. These illnesses are preventable via vaccination, but uptake is low and decreasing. Little research has focused on understanding the psychosocial reasons behind older adults' hesitancy towards different vaccines. A cross-sectional survey with 372 UK-based adults aged 65-92 years (M = 70.5) assessed awareness and uptake of the influenza, pneumococcal, and shingles vaccines. Participants provided health and socio-demographic data and completed two scales measuring the psychosocial factors associated with vaccination behaviour. Self-reported daily functioning, cognitive difficulties, and social support were also assessed. Participants were additionally given the opportunity to provide free text responses outlining up to three main reasons for their vaccination decisions. We found that considerably more participants had received the influenza vaccine in the last 12 months (83.6%), relative to having ever received the pneumococcal (60.2%) and shingles vaccines (58.9%). Participants were more aware of their eligibility for the influenza vaccine, and were more likely to have been offered it. Multivariate logistic regression analyses showed that a lower sense of collective responsibility independently predicted lack of uptake of all three vaccines. Greater calculation of disease and vaccination risk, and preference for natural immunity, also predicted not getting the influenza vaccine. For both the pneumococcal and shingles vaccines, concerns about profiteering further predicted lack of uptake. Analysis of the qualitative responses highlighted that participants vaccinated to protect their own health and that of others. Our findings suggest that interventions targeted towards older adults would benefit from being vaccine-specific and that they should emphasise disease risks and vaccine benefits for the individual, as well as the benefits of vaccination for the wider community. These findings can help inform intervention development aimed at increasing vaccination uptake in future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3520-3527
Number of pages8
Issue number26
Early online date20 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2021


  • vaccine
  • shingles
  • influenza
  • vaccination


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