How much difference does it make to people where a COVID vaccine was developed?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
January 15, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

People would feel most comfortable about coronavirus vaccines developed in Germany, Canada or the UK

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been blocking the purchase of millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine because it comes from China. The move is seen by many as politically motivated, rather than based on scientific concerns.

We know that some countries are more trusted than others on coronavirus, so it begs the question: what difference would a vaccine’s country of origin make to people’s perceptions of it?

YouGov asked almost 19,000 people in 17 countries and regions whether they would think more positively or negatively about a COVID-19 vaccine if they say it had been developed in a particular country. We asked about 12 different countries, all of which are or have been involved in developing coronavirus vaccines.

Topping the list with the most well-received hypothetical vaccine is Germany, with an average score of +35. Germany is the only Western nation that receives a large positive response from Chinese people, at +20.

Next is a Canada-developed vaccine, with an average score of +29, closely followed by a British one, at +28.

An American-developed vaccine receives an average score of +16, with most countries positive but a negative response in China at -25 (as well as a mildly negative score among the Germans, at -10, and French, at -4).

Opinion is more divided on the prospect of vaccines from Singapore (+7) and South Korea (+2). Eight of the countries/regions studied were more likely to feel negative than positive about a Singapore-developed vaccine, with nine saying the same of a South Korean one.

There were four countries where the average score was negative, meaning that people were more likely to feel worried than reassured by a vaccine coming from there. Russia, who has developed its own vaccine (Sputnik V), receives a score of -16. India scores on average -19, as does China which has already introduced two vaccines from domestic firms Sinovac and Sinopharm.

The lowest score, however, is reserved for Iran. On average, an Iranian vaccine receives a score of -30. In only two countries does such a vaccine not get a negative score: India (0) and Indonesia (+1).

Perceptions of vaccine development in China are more favourable worldwide than those regarding the country’s product manufacturing

The format of our vaccine question is based on a previous study YouGov conducted in 2019 on how people would feel about products made in certain countries. Comparing results from the two surveys among countries that participated in both* allows us to see how different people’s perceptions of a nation’s manufactured goods are compared to their medicinal prowess.

Although Germany topped the tables on both surveys, the results show that people have a more favourable impression of products made there (+41) than a potential coronavirus vaccine developed there (+34).

The same is true for the US and France, while there is virtually no difference when it comes to the UK, Canada and South Korea.

When it comes to China, the results show that people are more positive (or at least, less negative) of a vaccine developed there (-21) than their impression of goods manufactured there (-33).

*The manufactured products survey had been run in 14 of the 17 countries and regions in which the vaccine survey was conducted. For the purposes of this comparison, the data has been restricted to these 14 countries only, which is why there is a small discrepancy between vaccine scores reported in the first and second sections of the article. When it comes to what countries were asked about, the vaccines and manufactured goods surveys had seven countries in common: Germany, Canada, the UK, France, USA, South Korea and China.

See the full results here