Courage in Decision Making: A Mixed-Methods Study of COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake in Women of Reproductive Age in the U.K

Laura A Magee, Julia R Brown, Vicky Bowyer, Gillian Horgan, Harriet Boulding, Asma Khalil, Nathan J Cheetham, Nicholas R Harvey, Covid Symptom Study Biobank Consortium, Resilient Study Group, Hiten D Mistry, Carole Sudre, Sergio A Silverio, Peter von Dadelszen, Emma L Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COVID-19 vaccination rates are lower in women of reproductive age (WRA), including pregnant/postpartum women, despite their poorer COVID-19-related outcomes. We evaluated the vaccination experiences of 3568 U.K. WRA, including 1983 women (55.6%) experiencing a pandemic pregnancy, recruited through the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app. Two staggered online questionnaires (Oct-Dec 2021: 3453 responders; Aug-Sept 2022: 2129 responders) assessed reproductive status, COVID-19 status, vaccination, and attitudes for/against vaccination. Descriptive analyses included vaccination type(s), timing relative to age-based eligibility and reproductive status, vaccination delay (first vaccination >28 days from eligibility), and rationale, with content analysis of free-text comments. Most responders (3392/3453, 98.2%) were vaccinated by Dec 2021, motivated by altruism, vaccination supportiveness in general, low risk, and COVID-19 concerns. Few declined vaccination (by Sept/2022: 20/2129, 1.0%), citing risks (pregnancy-specific and longer-term), pre-existing immunity, and personal/philosophical reasons. Few women delayed vaccination, although pregnant/postpartum women (vs. other WRA) received vaccination later (median 3 vs. 0 days after eligibility, p < 0.0001). Despite high uptake, concerns included adverse effects, misinformation (including from healthcare providers), ever-changing government advice, and complex decision making. In summary, most women in this large WRA cohort were promptly vaccinated, including pregnant/post-partum women. Altruism and community benefit superseded personal benefit as reasons for vaccination. Nevertheless, responders experienced angst and received vaccine-related misinformation and discouragement. These findings should inform vaccination strategies in WRA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number440
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2024


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