Study shows direct relationship between confidence in vaccines and levels of science literacy

Researchers are calling for urgent changes to the GCSE science curriculum to help equip learners with enough science literacy to be able to identify reliable sources and inform their future decision-making process on vaccination.

A recent study from the University of Portsmouth has revealed new insights into factors affecting vaccine hesitancy in a UK population sample. The results showed a direct relationship between confidence in vaccines and levels of scientific education.

Through a survey of nearly 400 participants, researchers sought to determine whether levels of scientific literacy and views on social and political issues are associated with different levels of vaccine confidence and COVID-related concerns. -19.

Participants were asked to what extent they agreed with statements such as:

The study found that participants who studied science up to GCSE level were more hesitant than those with lower and higher levels of science education.

It is possible that participants who had not studied science in high school recognized their lack of knowledge on the subject and tended to seek expert advice on vaccines from qualified personnel, such as health care workers. health. However, those who have taken the GCSE science exams might overestimate their skills in the field and “do their own research”, not always with the right results”.

Dr Alessandro Siani, Associate Director (Students), School of Biological Sciences, University of Portsmouth

This study also found that participants’ levels of concern about the COVID-19 pandemic varied widely depending on their level of science education and political views. 100% of participants with the lowest level of science education (primary or lower secondary) agreed with the statement “I am concerned about the current pandemic”, while participants who studied science at postgraduate level were the most likely to disagree with this statement.

Participants with neutral/centrist political views expressed lower confidence than those with a libertarian social position or a left-wing economic position. Greater concern about the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with lower levels of science education, libertarian social views, and left-leaning economic views.

Dr Siani said: “Lack of confidence in vaccines had already been identified as one of the top ten threats to global health, even before the COVID-19 pandemic made global media headlines on the topic. of vaccination. At a time when many countries are still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic and limited vaccine uptake is hampering global efforts to overcome the current crisis, this study provides important insights into the factors underpinning strain confidence in vaccines and concerns about the pandemic. do not pursue further science studies after secondary education, the observation that participants who have studied science up to GCSE level show the highest level of vaccine hesitancy should be cause for concern.”

The researchers conclude that school curricula should not only be designed to teach students accurate and up-to-date scientific concepts, but also to equip them with the tools to understand the scientific method, avoid misinformation and seek out reliable and authoritative scientific sources. on evidence. Ensuring that topics of critical public health importance are adequately covered in secondary school curricula could help improve science literacy and confidence in vaccinations and the health care workers who administer them. .


Journal reference:

Siani, A. et al. (2022) Political Opinions and Scientific Literacy as Indicators of Vaccine Confidence and COVID-19 Concerns. Journal of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene.

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