Vaccine access and uptake

Policy Briefing

Published 20/04/2021

Vaccine access and uptake cover
This briefing note explores factors influencing the access and uptake of vaccines; the different approaches taken by public health authorities to promote vaccines; and the ethical considerations that arise in this context.
Girl getting vaccinated


  • Vaccination programmes are a highly effective public health intervention and have the potential to further improve population health and health security, but their success depends on high levels of public participation.
  • Whether or not people take up the offer of a vaccine, for themselves or their children, can be a ‘default’ or a proactive decision, influenced by a range of factors.
  • Initiatives to remove practical barriers and factors that make vaccines less accessible or convenient for local communities have been shown to increase vaccine uptake.
  • Trust in those developing, offering, and promoting vaccines - and in government and the health system more widely - plays a key role in decisions about vaccines.
  • Communities that experience inequity and marginalisation might have lower levels of confidence in vaccines, potentially resulting in a lower uptake in these groups.
  • Governments have a responsibility to act to reduce health inequalities including by ensuring equitable access to vaccines within and beyond their borders, particularly in areas with poor access.


Many thanks to Helen Donovan (Royal College of Nursing), David Elliman (Great Ormond Street Hospital), Anthony Harnden (University of Oxford), and Martyn Pickersgill (The University of Edinburgh) for reviewing an early draft of this briefing note.