Women are more likely to oppose getting the COVID-19 vaccine, a study among residents in Malta has found.

Published last week, the study sheds light on the attitudes of people in the country towards the COVID-19 vaccine, with insights obtained through the responses of some 2,529 people who participated in online surveys.

Researchers conducted two consecutive studies. While the first was limited to Malta residents the second was open to international participants.

The results showed women are more likely to engage in “preventive behaviour” by wearing masks properly, wash hands regularly and observe social distancing.

But when it came to getting protection from a shot in the arm, women were found to believe less in the coronavirus vaccine and did not see this as a way to help protect the health of those who take it.

Women engage in preventive behaviour by wearing masks properly, wash hands regularly and exercise social distancing

Men were found to be more likely to value healthcare professionals’ advice on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. They were also more willing to get the jab when compared to women.

As to the opinion of family and friends, the researchers found these played a crucial part in a person’s own position on the vaccine although the impact of healthcare professionals’ input on the matter was even more significant.

The research also showed older participants were more eager to get the jab, with those over 60 more willing to be vaccinated in comparison with those in the 30 to 39 age group.

Although an individual’s level of education was not found to actually influence one’s willingness to be inoculated or not, those with tertiary education were more likely to believe that vaccines work than those with lower qualifications.

The majority of participants unwilling to take the vaccine said their stand was based on their fears the vaccine might not be safe. Almost 60 per cent of women who do not want to take the vaccine gave this as the reason for their reluctancy.

Only about 25 per cent of the men shared this opinion.

And just over a quarter of the women not getting a shot in the arm said they believed the vaccine would not give the immunity needed to protect against the virus.

In conclusion, the researchers noted that campaigns by the health authorities were unlikely to change the attitudes of those “directly opposed” to vaccination and, so, they should not even be targeted.

“Communication campaigns promoting group strategies can encourage cohorts of people to move from knowledge to action,” they said.

The research was conducted by University of Malta professors Maria Cordina, Mary Anne Lauri and Jose Lauri, with the results having been published on March 22 on the peer-reviewed journal Pharmacy Practice.

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