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Addressing Kiwis' vaccine issues

17 Feb 21

Addressing Kiwis' vaccine issues
Professor Chris Bullen ... As far as we can tell, few serious side effects

The Ministry of Health (MOH) held a panel discussion with media at 11 am 17 February, to discuss research results on New Zealanders’ attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines.

The panel considered results of Horizon Research surveys, conducted in partnership with Auckland University’s School of Population Health, during September and December 2020.

Stuff has published a report on the panel discussion, and in a Stuff live feed on the media conference reported these comments:

Professor Chris Bullen, Deputy Head, School of Population Health, University of Auckland,

told the MOH panel discussion on New Zealanders' attitudes to vaccines that he thought there would be a group of people with long held views on vaccination but "that doesn't mean we won't be trying".

Professor Bullen said it wasn't known whether the people who said they wouldn't have a vaccine were those who were opposed to vaccines in general. He suspected there was an overlap but there may be some people with a unique concern about Covid.

Professor Bullen said there was probably a hard core of about 10 per cent of people who would absolutely not have a vaccine, and they could be very hard to persuade.

He thought another 10-15 per cent were hesitant but persuadable.

Side effects:

The panel was asked whether there would be an information campaign explaining the possible side effects of the Covid-19 vaccines.

Martin Chadwick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, said that was partly covered by the Medsafe process, which provide an understanding of the safety of vaccines and potential side effects, and to ensure that information was made public.

"Common side effects with this particular vaccine is a sore shoulder, which is very common with most vaccines, occasionally a mild headache, but given the hundreds of thousands of doses that have been administered across the globe, we've got a very good sample of understanding of if there is anything else that we need to be aware of," Chadwick said.

"And all of that is made publicly available."

Professor Bullen said the research gives sufficient grounds to feel positive going into a vaccine rollout.

As far as we can tell at this point the vaccines have very few serious side effects, Bullen said.

Confidence in the vaccine is not as high in Māori, women and Pacific  people.

The 60-70 per cent willing to have the vaccine was a great starting point, Bullen said.

Most concern was about the safety of the vaccine. Communication had to address concerns about safety, Bullen said.


Expanding on some of the comments from Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone, Director, Pacific Health:

Pacific communities can be quite vulnerable and susceptible to misinformation, innuendo and rumour. That undermined any public health campaign.

"We've been tracking social media for some time  and what that tells us is that already there is a high level of skepticism within the Pacific community, in particular.

"Countering these issues is not something that the ministry can do by themselves, and so from the entire outset of the Covid campaign we've linked really closely with our Pacific health leaders, clinicians, academic experts, Pacific providers, community leaders, to help us try to mobilise and to touch those trusted sources of information."

Pacific communities can be quite vulnerable to misinformation, Clifford-Lidstone said.

Bullen said safety was probably the biggest concern people had.

"It does mean that it's important for the communications to highlight concerns around safety and address those."

New Zealand had been able to watch vaccines being rolled out overseas "and feel pretty reassured that, as far as we can tell at this point in time, the vaccines that are being used are incredibly safe. There's very few serious side effects for people to be concerned about."

Mainly the focus will be on showing the safety of the vaccine, Clifford-Lidstone said.

Looking at social media, there's a high level of skepticism among the Pacific community.

Campaign for Maori

Now John Whaanga, Deputy Director-General, Mâori Health:

A campaign has been developed for Māori, he said.

What has worked well with Māori was providing trusted information.

Vaccines are really important for our people, Whaanga said.

The report highlights the need for trusted sources of information, Martin Chadwick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, said.