Most Australians say they would receive a “safe and effective” COVID-19 vaccine but hesitancy still persists, including among multicultural communities, according to a new report.
The study conducted by the Australian National University (ANU), released on Wednesday, surveyed more than 3,000 people to examine attitudes in the early stages of the vaccine rollout in Australia.
Its release comes as the federal government attempts to address vaccine hesitancy among Australians as well as logistical issues around sourcing and supplying vaccines.
The survey found Australians are expressing concern over the vaccine rollout, with almost two thirds or 64 per cent believing it is not being handled well.
Despite this, vaccine willingness has remained high and stable since the start of the year.
The report found 54.7 per cent of surveyed Australians said they would definitely get a “safe and effective” vaccine in April, up from 43.7 per cent in January. About 28 per cent they probably would, and 11 per cent said they probably wouldn’t.
“These findings are extremely important as the government attempts to reconcile public sentiment and confidence in its vaccine program,” report author Professor Nicholas Biddle said.
Hesitancy persists among some members of multicultural communities
The report also explored vaccine willingness among those who speak a language other than English and found 44.8 per cent of those respondents said they would definitely get a safe and effective vaccine if it was available to them.
But the figure remains lower than the 58.2 per cent of people who do not fit this description.
Mr Biddle said while the results showed general support among diverse communities, there remained hesitancy that needed to be addressed.
“There is a real need from a policy perspective to make sure messages are consistent and sensitive to concerns of these communities,” he said.
“It is clear that there are lower rates and it shows that the relationship needs to be managed in such a way that the reluctance is overcome.”
The report also found those respondents who said they had experienced discrimination were generally less willing to be vaccinated.
Of those from a non-English speaking background who said they had been discriminated against, 17.1 per cent expressed hesitancy to the vaccine, compared to 14 per cent of those who had not.
“There is support among non-English speaking communities… there is a desire to get vaccinated – but there are factors that can increase their reluctance,” Mr Biddle said.
The federal government’s vaccine public information campaign around COVID-19 vaccines includes specific measures designed to reach culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Concerns over vaccine hesitancy have been heightened after updated medical advice over the AstraZeneca vaccine linked the jab to rare cases of blood clots.
National cabinet last month agreed to fast-track the vaccination of Australians over the age of 50 after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) changed its advice to recommend the Pfizer shot for people under 50.
The TGA’s advice continues to recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for those over 50.
The survey found the updated health advice has impacted attitudes, with 50.4 per cent of those who don’t want a vaccine saying it is because of the rare side effect linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Concern about possible side effects is the most common reason for vaccine hesitancy, at 63.3 per cent.
And, 55 per cent of those who had raised concerns about the vaccine said they planned to wait more time to monitor evidence before taking up the jab.
The survey also found 67.6 per cent of respondents thought Australia should help ensure developing countries have access to coronavirus vaccines, even if that means people in Australia have to wait longer.