“It seems impossible that it’s been made so quickly”: a qualitative investigation of concerns about the speed of COVID-19 vaccine development and how these may be overcome

Poppy Brown, Felicity Waite, Michael Larkin, Sinéad Lambe, Helen McShane, Andrew J Pollard, Daniel Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The speed of COVID-19 vaccine development has been identified as a central concern contributing to hesitancy in acceptance. We conducted qualitative interviews to gain a greater understanding into these concerns and to identify what might address them. Twelve qualitative interviews were conducted with participants identifying as hesitant for COVID-19 vaccination and reporting concern about the speed of vaccine development. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used. Concerns about speed comprised the linked themes of i) difficulty understanding the pace, and, ii) worry about the implications for vaccine safety. Uncertainties concerning the pandemic led to a notable desire for credible and understandable information regarding the vaccines, which many participants felt was not available. Four routes to resolving uncertainty about whether to be vaccinated were identified. First, waiting for more information about the vaccines, such as about their contents and impact on transmission. Second, a growing perception that the vaccines must be safe given the large numbers already vaccinated. Third, viewing the vaccines as necessary - even if unappealing - for ending the pandemic. Finally, a feeling that there would be no choice but to have a vaccine. Examples of what might reduce hesitancy were given, including interviews with vaccine developers and knowing others of similar age having safely been vaccinated. The pace of development broke expectations set earlier in the pandemic. This was interpreted negatively due to a perceived lack of credible information. Most participants could envisage ways their concerns could be resolved, enough for them to have a vaccine.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2004808
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics
Issue number1
Early online date16 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding: The project was funded by a grant from the University of Oxford COVID19 Research Response Fund [Project Reference: 0009519]. It also received
support from the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre and
the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. Daniel Freeman is
a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Senior Investigator.
The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those
of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.
Felicity Waite is funded by a Wellcome Trust Clinical Doctoral Fellowship
[102176/B/13/Z]. The investigators acknowledge the philanthropic support of the donors to the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 Research
Response Fund.


  • Covid-19
  • IPA
  • Vaccine-hesitancy
  • qualitative
  • speed of development


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