16 Apr 2021

Bloomfield confident vaccine decliners will diminish as publicity campaign fires up

6:42 am on 16 April 2021

The publicity campaign for the Covid-19 vaccine is being scaled up next week and the latest research shows there are still plenty of people who need convincing.

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Dr Ashley Bloomfield is optimistic the decliners will decrease over time. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The Ministry of Health wants to administer a million vaccines by the end of June.

And from next week it's planning to ramp up the campaign to encourage as many people as possible to get the injections.

"It will include booklets out in people's letterboxes, it will include TV ads, radio ads, all the social media channels. It will include videos of champions ... people New Zealanders will know to point them towards where they can find good information," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

However, seven months of surveys by Horizon Research and University of Auckland's School of public health show that for 9.4 percent of the population it's a hard no to getting the jab and researchers doubt that figure will change.

Altogether, 20 percent say they're unlikely to get vaccinated - an estimated 799,000 people of the adult population.

On the other hand, the number of Māori who will probably say no has dropped from 27 to 18 percent and for Pacific it's plummeted from 34 percent to just nine.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents indicated they were likely to get the vaccine and 15 percent stated they would get one immediately if it was available.

Dr Bloomfield was optimistic the decliners would decrease over time.

"We are fortunate here in New Zealand because at the moment we're safe and protected because of our border arrangements. But of course, as we want to open up the border that will change and I think people's perception of the importance of vaccination may also change, too."

The research also shows 70 percent of those who say they are likely to get vaccinated want more information.

Side effects, where to get the injections, booking appointments and how the vaccine works are all on the list.

National's Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said the publicity campaign should have ramped months ago.

"Really the government should have been filling the airwaves with information about the vaccine and its efficacy and how critical it is to our recovery from Covid-19," he said.

"Instead, unfortunately what's happened is, as anyone who is active on social media will know, there's been quite a degree of filling of the vacuum by anti-vaxxer groups and frankly people who are deliberately spreading misinformation."

Bishop also wanted a target for how much of the adult population should be vaccinated.

"It should be at least 70 percent, that's what most other countries have set. The government says the aim is to give everyone a vaccine who wants one, that's all well and good, but let's set a target for how many people who actually need to have a vaccine or the country needs them to have a vaccine, because it's only once we get to herd immunity that we start getting options and choices."

But Dr Bloomfield said an exact target for population immunity has not yet been set.

"Our eligible population is around 75 percent of New Zealand's population. We would want to be getting as many in the eligible population vaccinated as possible and that's absolutely our aspiration," Bloomfield said.

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