Background: Occupational disparities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake can impact the effectiveness of vaccination programmes and introduce particular risk for vulnerable workers and those with high workplace exposure. This study aimed to investigate COVID-19 vaccine uptake by occupation, including for vulnerable groups and by occupational exposure status.
Methods: We used data from employed or self-employed adults who provided occupational information as part of the Virus Watch prospective cohort study (n=19,595) and linked this to study-obtained information about vulnerability-relevant characteristics (age, medical conditions, obesity status) and work-related COVID-19 exposure based on the Job Exposure Matrix. Participant vaccination status for the first, second, and third dose of any COVID-19 vaccine was obtained based on linkage to national records and study records. We calculated proportions and Sison-Glaz multinomial 95% confidence intervals for vaccine uptake by occupation overall, by vulnerability-relevant characteristics, and by job exposure.
Findings: Vaccination uptake across occupations ranged from 89-96% for the first dose, 87-94% for the second dose, and 75-86% for the third dose, with transport, trade, service and sales workers persistently demonstrating the lowest uptake. Vulnerable workers tended to demonstrate fewer between-occupational differences in uptake than non-vulnerable workers, although clinically vulnerable transport workers (76%-89% across doses) had lower uptake than several other occupational groups (maximum across doses 86-96%). Workers with low SARS-CoV-2 exposure risk had higher vaccine uptake (86%-96% across doses) than those with elevated or high risk (81-94% across doses).
Interpretation: Differential vaccination uptake by occupation, particularly amongst vulnerable and highly-exposed workers, is likely to worsen occupational and related socioeconomic inequalities in infection outcomes. Further investigation into occupational and non-occupational factors influencing differential uptake is required to inform relevant interventions for future COVID-19 booster rollouts and similar vaccination programmes.
Published: 7 November 2022