Majority of global community thinks COVID-19 is here to stay, survey finds

According to a new survey, most people around the world believe that COVID-19 and its variants are here to stay. The findings also reveal vastly different levels of popular support across regions regarding whether and where vaccination mandates and rules should be maintained. Geographic differences in the level of support for requiring proof of vaccination in various public settings largely mirror support levels for vaccination mandates in general.

These are some of the findings of a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum and Ipsos of 20,525 adults aged 18-74 from 30 countries conducted between January 21 and February 4, 2022.

“Countries continue to grapple with the ebbs and flows of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a variety of measures being considered to keep populations protected,” said Genya Dana, Head of Health and Healthcare, World Economic Forum. “Continuous learning and adjustment of approaches is needed as we learn to live with the virus. It is also vital that the views of the public be constantly considered.

Widespread view that COVID-19 will never stop spreading

The belief that COVID-19 will remain a permanent risk and feature of daily life, even if a full range of health mandates are maintained, is held by a majority of people across all countries surveyed. These views are especially prevalent in high-income countries, such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia, and Singapore – where over 80% of those surveyed agreed that “even with all the measures being taken, we will never be able to fully stop the spread of COVID-19 and variants.”

The most “optimistic” country regarding a potential end to the circulation of COVID-19 was China, where 44% of respondents disagreed that COVID-19 would never stop spreading. Respondents in Italy (32%), Saudi Arabia (32%), Brazil (30%), Russia (30%) were the next most likely to disagree with the idea that COVID-19 would never be eliminated. 

A majority in all these same countries – 51% in China, 54% in Saudi Arabia, 57% in Russia, 61% in Italy, and 64% in Brazil – still shared the widely-held view that the spread of COVID-19 will not be halted.

Support for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations

On average across all 30 countries surveyed, 63% support “making a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for anyone eligible for it”, while 32% oppose it, and 5% don’t know. Support for vaccination mandates is generally strongest in most Asian and Latin American countries, with India (where 89% agree with this statement), Peru (86%), Mexico (84%), and Malaysia (82%) being the most supportive.

However, there is wide disparity among support levels for vaccination mandates across different geographical regions. In certain European countries, as well as the United States, a majority now disagree with mandatory vaccination rules. Opposition was strongest in Romania (57%), Hungary (54%), Russia (53%), the United States (51%), and the Netherlands (51%). 

Also of note, comparisons with a similar survey conducted in April 2021 show that support for vaccine mandates has grown significantly over the past year in China (+14 percentage points), Italy (+10), Australia (+10), Germany (+9), and France (+6), but decreased in Japan (-13) and the U.S. (-8). 

Public opinion on obligatory vaccination in Japan, and South Korea – where 40% and 41% of respondents respectively oppose it – currently seems more similar to public opinion in several Western European countries than other countries in Asia.

Respondents were also asked if they support making a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for “anyone over the age of 50” and “anyone over the age of 18”. Generally, support for mandatory vaccination among these age groups mirrored that for “anyone eligible” – as 63% of the global public support obligatory vaccination for those aged 18+, and 64% supported it among the 50+ bracket. 

India, Mexico and Peru were again the most likely to be supportive – with at least 84% of respondents in these countries consistently expressing support for mandatory vaccination, irrespective of the different age parameters of the three questions.

However, there were a few variations between the answers to these questions in different countries. For instance, support for making vaccination mandatory for all adults aged 50+ is higher than for “anyone eligible” in France, Belgium, Sweden, and South Korea, but lower in China and Russia. 

Support for making vaccination mandatory for all adults aged 18+ is higher than for “anyone eligible” in France and the Netherlands, but lower in Hungary and Romania.

Support for requiring proof of vaccination

The survey also asked respondents about vaccination mandates at the workplace, at sporting facilities, in restaurants, and for “normal activities such as travel”. Support for requiring proof of vaccination to enter sporting events (71% on average globally) and to return to “normal activities such as travel” (69%) was slightly higher than for eating inside restaurants (66%) and returning to the workplace (64%).

Geographic variations among the levels of support for requiring proof of vaccination in each of these settings typically mirrored those for general vaccination mandates. 

Latin American and several Asian countries were again the most likely to be in favour, while Eastern and Central European countries were the least supportive on average. Hungary, Russia, Poland, and Romania consistently ranked among the least supportive globally regarding requirements to show proof of vaccination.

Photo credit: iStock/ Tzido

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