The question will soon be before us.
New Zealand has just approved the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, which has shown 95% effectiveness. NZ has 1.5 million doses on order and the first jabs are expected next month for folks like front line workers.
Large-scale vaccinations would begin in the second half of the year. NZ is also reviewing and has provisionally ordered over 10 million doses of other vaccines (AstraZeneca and Novovax).
Do you intend to be vaccinated when your turn comes?
I’ll come to NZ attitudes in a moment, but first …
In that nefarious den of conspiracy theorists and troglodytes, the U.S., some polls indicate that less than half the adult population is inclined to take an anti-Covid jab at present! Only four in ten U.S. adults (41%) now say that when an FDA-approved vaccine for Covid-19 is available to them for free, they will get the vaccine “as soon they can,” up from 34% in December.
I don’t mean to be dismissive of those who are reluctant to vaccinate after some considered assessment of safety, side effects or efficacy concerns, but surely they are not half the U.S. population!
The most common concern among U.S. adults who have not yet been vaccinated is that “the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are unknown” (68% say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about this). Majorities are also concerned that they might experience serious side effects from the vaccine (59%), that the vaccines are not as safe as they are said to be (55%), or that they are not as effective as they are said to be (53%).
The leading ‘vaccine myths’ relate to erroneous beliefs that the vaccines contain the live virus and that they cause infertility.
In the US, resistance is most pronounced among African-Americans, Hispanics, those with lower incomes and rural residents and thanks to Trump … Republicans (33% of whom say they will definitely not get the vaccine or will get it only if required to do so for work, school or other activities, as compared to 20% of all Americans with that view).
Many resisters (39%) are taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude to see how the vaccine works on others and might eventually come around.
Almost half (47%) of US adults have been vaccinated or know someone who has been. Nothing will sell the vaccine like observable results. Research indicates the convincing messages revolve around actual efficacy (effectiveness at preventing illnessa and protection for those vaccinated) and returning to ‘normal life’.
How will this play out in in New Zealand?
A study published in Lancet last year described 30% of New Zealanders as “vaccine skeptics” (this study wasn’t specifically about Covid-19).
A Massey University survey indicated that one in four people did not intend to get the Covid vaccine. Dr Ashley Bloomfield has indicated about 20% are “hesitant” about the vaccine, with less than 10% likely to refuse outright. About 70% of people need to be vaccinated to provide ‘national herd immunity’ to the virus.
He told RNZ: “Once you start to provide really good information from people New Zealanders trust, and from organisations they trust, you find that the group of people who really are opposed to having a vaccine is quite small.”
Methinks an important NZ ‘educational effort’ lies ahead.
[If you are a health professional or communicator working in the Covid space, I’d strongly recommend studying this source which has been probing U.S. attitudes and experiences with Covid-19 vaccinations and examining effective messaging.]