Repository logo

Injection fears and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

Published version



Change log


Lambe, Sinéad 
Yu, Ly-Mee 
Freeman, Jason 
Chadwick, Andrew 


BACKGROUND: When vaccination depends on injection, it is plausible that the blood-injection-injury cluster of fears may contribute to hesitancy. Our primary aim was to estimate in the UK adult population the proportion of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy explained by blood-injection-injury fears. METHODS: In total, 15 014 UK adults, quota sampled to match the population for age, gender, ethnicity, income and region, took part (19 January-5 February 2021) in a non-probability online survey. The Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Scale assessed intent to be vaccinated. Two scales (Specific Phobia Scale-blood-injection-injury phobia and Medical Fear Survey-injections and blood subscale) assessed blood-injection-injury fears. Four items from these scales were used to create a factor score specifically for injection fears. RESULTS: In total, 3927 (26.2%) screened positive for blood-injection-injury phobia. Individuals screening positive (22.0%) were more likely to report COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy compared to individuals screening negative (11.5%), odds ratio = 2.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.97-2.40, p < 0.001. The population attributable fraction (PAF) indicated that if blood-injection-injury phobia were absent then this may prevent 11.5% of all instances of vaccine hesitancy, AF = 0.11; 95% CI 0.09-0.14, p < 0.001. COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was associated with higher scores on the Specific Phobia Scale, r = 0.22, p < 0.001, Medical Fear Survey, r = 0.23, p = <0.001 and injection fears, r = 0.25, p < 0.001. Injection fears were higher in youth and in Black and Asian ethnic groups, and explained a small degree of why vaccine hesitancy is higher in these groups. CONCLUSIONS: Across the adult population, blood-injection-injury fears may explain approximately 10% of cases of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Addressing such fears will likely improve the effectiveness of vaccination programmes.



COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, UK adults, blood-injection-injury phobia, needle fears, Adult, Adolescent, Humans, COVID-19 Vaccines, COVID-19, Phobic Disorders, Fear

Journal Title

Psychol Med

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title


Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Wellcome Trust (102176/B/13/Z)