High Rates of COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Its Association with Conspiracy Beliefs: A Study in Jordan and Kuwait among Other Arab Countries
Vaccination could be an effective strategy for slowing the spread of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Vaccine hesitancy could pose a serious problem for COVID-19 prevention, due to the spread of misinformation surrounding the ongoing pandemic. The aim of this study was to assess the attitudes towards the prospective COVID-19 vaccines among the general public in Jordan, Kuwait and other Arab countries. We also aimed to assess the association between COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and conspiracy beliefs. This study used an online survey distributed in December 2020, with items assessing conspiracies regarding COVID-19's origin and vaccination. Attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines were assessed using the Vaccine Conspiracy Belief Scale (VCBS), with higher scores indicating a greater belief in vaccine conspiracy. A total of 3414 respondents completed the survey, the majority being residents of Jordan (n = 2173, 63.6%), Kuwait (n = 771, 22.6%) and Saudi Arabia (n = 154, 4.5%). The acceptance rates for COVID-19 and influenza vaccines were 29.4% and 30.9%, respectively. Males, respondents with higher educational levels and those with histories of chronic disease had higher rates of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance. Beliefs that COVID-19 vaccines are intended to inject microchips into recipients and that the vaccines are related to infertility were found in 27.7% and 23.4% of respondents, respectively. Higher VCBS scores were found among females, respondents with lower educational levels and respondents relying on social media platforms as the main source of information. The high rates of vaccine hesitancy in Jordan and Kuwait, among other Arab countries, are alarming. They could hinder the proper control of COVID-19 in the region. The harmful effect of COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy beliefs was manifested in vaccine hesitancy. This may represent a massive obstacle to the successful control of the pandemic. A reliance on social media as the main source of information about COVID-19 vaccines was associated with vaccine hesitancy. This should alert governments, policy makers and the general public to the importance of vigilant fact checking.