A TELEVISION doctor and consultant paediatrician at the Countess of Chester Hospital says it beggar's belief that a third of he UK population would not have or are unsure about having a coronavirus vaccine.

The latest polling has suggested that almost a third of Britons definitely will not or are unsure about whether they will take up a coronavirus vaccine as anti-vax misinformation takes hold online.

In a survey conducted on behalf of research group Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), only 6% of people polled said they would definitely not get vaccinated.

But a further 10% said they would "probably not", while another 15% said they did not know, taking the numbers of those who may not get vaccinated against the deadly disease up to almost a third of the population.

Dr Ravi Jayaram said on his Facebook page that a coronavirus vaccine that worked would have huge benefits for individuals and society.

He said: If you had any doubts about the power of social media to spread misinformation then this should dispel those doubts. No vaccine is 100% safe but if risks outweighed benefits they wouldn’t be licensed.

"And if a C19 vaccine is found that works then the benefits for the individual and society will be huge.

"It’s depressing reading conspiracy theories about Bill Gates/Big Pharma/5G etc. To see that a 1/3 of the population would not have a C19 vaccine even with 44,000 deaths from it beggars belief yet I’m also not surprised anymore by this sort of thing."

Dr Ravi, who co-presented Channel 4's series Born Naughty? and has hosted phone-ins on ITV's This Morning, added "there can be immediate side effects with vaccines eg local reactions (redness, soreness, infection at injection site, very very rarely anaphylaxis, fits), short/medium term effects (fever, muscle aches, fatigue as vaccination mimics the illness to give you immunity). He added: "Long term effects are uncommon in the vaccines that have been around for decades and studied closely. However the longer term effects of the diseases that they protect against are well documented hence the risk:benefit ratio sitting heavily towards benefit.

"Anything we do in life is a balance of risk v benefit eg crossing the road. There are some people who will get knocked down by cars regardless of all precautions but most won’t."

In the poll. out of the 1,663 people questioned in Britain, 38% said they would "definitely" get vaccinated and another 31% declared they "probably" would - a total of 69%.

With scientists predicting that more than three-quarters of the population would need to be vaccinated in order to have success in suppressing coronavirus, the findings could represent a threat to the ability to contain Covid-19.

CCDH said its polling results come amid a dramatic rise in the popularity of anti-vaccine social media pages and channels, with 7.7 million more social media users following such accounts since the outbreak of coronavirus.

In its poll, carried out by YouGov between June 24-25, CCDH found that members of the public who relied on social media more than traditional media for information were less likely to say they would get vaccinated.

Last year, the UK lost its measles-free status due to experiencing a fall in the number of parents ensuring their children were vaccinated.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time that the UK was "suddenly going in the wrong direction" and that "people have been listening to that superstitious mumbo jumbo on the internet, all that anti-vax stuff".

In a report published by the group on Tuesday, The Anti-Vax Industry, the authors state that the total following for anti-vax advocates and groups online is up to 57 million across both the US and UK.

The report analysed more than 400 anti-vax Facebook groups and pages, YouTube channels, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

It found they were publishing false conspiracy theories, including that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had created the coronavirus pandemic, that vaccines cause Covid-19, and that tests for the coronavirus vaccine had caused women to become infertile.

CCDH said its research indicated that social media companies had chosen to adopt lenient policies on anti-vaccine content, with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube promising only to reduce the ease with which users could find anti-vaccine content but refusing to remove pages or groups which promoted anti-vax content.

Imran Ahmed, chief executive of CCDH, said: "Our hope for a return to normal life rests with scientists developing a successful vaccine for coronavirus.

"But social media companies' irresponsible decision to continue to publish anti-vaccine propaganda means a vaccine may not be effective in containing the virus.

"The price for their greed is a cost paid in lives.

"There is simply no responsible justification for publishing lies and conspiracy theories about vaccines."

Jo Stevens, Labour's shadow culture secretary, said: "This poll lays bare just how dangerous disinformation online can be.

"The rapid spread of false information about vaccinations could literally be a question of life and death.

"Social media companies must ensure this content has no place on their platforms and ministers must do more to promote the benefits of vaccines and counter the harmful, dangerous myths which surround them before a coronavirus vaccine becomes available."

While some people argued with Dr Ravi's expert opinion on his Facebook page, the majority of posters said they would take a vaccine if offered.

One said: "Well, I for one will be in the queue. I have the flu vaccine every year, free now but had it when I had to pay for it. Last week, I went for the Pneumonia Jab, once in a lifetime. Have never had any reaction to them. I trust the clever scientists and doctors. The after effects of the Covid Virus sound far worse than a sore arms."

Another Facebook user, posted: "Since joining the NHS in 2009, I have always had the flu vaccine. It's not just about me, it's about protecting my family and my patients. With a vaccine for covid, there are going to be those that are not going to trust a new vaccine and that is their choice. But sometimes we have to put faith in those who have studied for years in order to create a vaccine."

Another highlighted the danger of "anti-vaxxer" conspiracy theories, saying: "It doesn't help when celebrities jump on the anti vax bandwagon either! The anti-vax movement is huge in the US... social media has made all the misinformation available across the world... its such a shame for the majority of us who will suffer because of it!"