Three quarters of New Zealanders intend to get immunised against coronavirus when a vaccine becomes available, new research has found.
The research, undertaken by Massey University, puts New Zealanders ahead of the UK, US and Germany in their willingness to to be vaccinated against the disease, at 74% of the population.
About half of New Zealanders believe a coronavirus vaccine will be available at some point in 2021, while 21% say it will be available in 2022 or later. Only one in ten think that it will be available before the end of 2020.
More than 1,000 people took part in the survey, and showed more willingness than comparative nations to trying a vaccine if and when it became available.
“While these are not (an) apples to apples comparison, New Zealanders appear to have slightly higher intensions to vaccinate against Covid-19,” said Dr Jagadish Thaker at the School and Journalism and Communication.
“In Germany, public willingness for a Covid-19 vaccine dropped from 70% in April to 61% in June.”
Around the world, more than 170 teams of researchers are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine.
Vaccines normally require years of testing and additional time to produce at scale, but scientists are hoping to develop a coronavirus vaccine within 12 to 18 months.
Last week the Russian president, Vladmir Putin, said his country had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine for human use, but scientists voiced concern that Russian researchers had jumped the gun.
On Wednesday Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison backtracked after announcing he would make a potential Covid-19 vaccine “mandatory”, later saying instead that it would be “encouraged”.
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said a vaccine would not be mandatory in New Zealand, telling local television: “Once we have that vaccination available and out then it is on everyone’s individual risk – if they choose not to they are putting their own health at risk. Because we would of course remove other controls that have stopped the spread.”
In New Zealand the study found 36% of Māori don’t want to get vaccinated, compared with 24% of European New Zealanders, and 19% of Asian and other groups. Men were more likely to say they would get vaccinated against the coronavirus than women at 78% and 70% respectively.
“As the world prepares for a reliable and safe vaccine against coronavirus, it is important that public health experts are prepared to respond to public scepticism and hesitancy about the coronavirus vaccine,” Thaker said.
Thaker said the most commonly cited reasons for choosing to take the vaccine were to protect yourself or family, at 62% each.
Other reasons stated include it being the best way to avoid getting seriously ill, to feel safe around other people, to protect their community, to return to normality, on a doctors’ recommendation, or because of a chronic health condition.
Reasons cited by those not wanting to get the vaccine say they need more time to assess the safety of it, they were concerned about the possible side effects, or they feared getting infected with coronavirus from the vaccine itself.
“Other open comments on reasons to not get a coronavirus vaccine include lack of trust, belief in conspiracy theories and a feeling that the testing is rushed,” said Dr Vishnu Menon, co-author of the research.
He said overall New Zealanders exhibited positive attitudes towards vaccination.
“However, they would need reassurance about the safety of a newly introduced vaccine,” adding that more than half of New Zealanders said they were uncomfortable getting a vaccine that was rushed into production.