Attitudes toward Covid-19 vaccine in Tairāwhiti revealed in survey

4:06 pm on 20 October 2021

Free fast food, financial incentives and "methodically banging on every single door in Tairāwhiti" have been thrown up as ideas of how to get more people vaccinated against Covid-19.

Vaccination Centre Sign

File image. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

An online community-led survey of about 400 Tairāwhiti residents between 5 and 10 October sought to better understand attitudes to the Covid-19 vaccination.

Of about 300 respondents who gave input on how to get more people vaccinated, 65 percent thought more information about the impact of a community outbreak would assist the effort.

About 60 percent said previously hesitant residents talking about why they chose to get vaccinated could help while 55 percent supported the idea of a mobile vaccination van.

Ruatoria resident Manu Caddie, who organised the survey, asked people to explain their reasons for getting vaccinated or not.

While acknowledging that the survey only "scratched the surface", he hoped it would show the value in taking a non-judgemental inquiry to better understand the range of perspectives on the controversial issue.

Of 280 respondents who had received a dose of the vaccine, the most common reason for doing so was to give others and themselves the best chance of surviving Covid-19.

Many cited their reasons for being vaccinated as their whānau and wanting to protect tamariki and kaumātua, as well as wanting to be able to travel overseas.

Of 33 people who gave their reasons for not getting the vaccine, 70 percent cited concerns about safety, 50 percent believed their own immunity would keep them safe and 42 percent said they didn't trust the Government.

Caddie said he wanted to know the core concerns of those who were actively opposed to vaccination and how much of the resistance was based on a misunderstanding of clinical trials or a general distrust of government.

"A potential interpretation from the results would be that the Government and its agents should dial back the hardcore campaign messages," he said.

"Instead, the agencies should be focusing on local champions who may not be the usual suspects but who are trusted within these marginalised groups - particularly those who have a healthy distrust of government - and who may have been hesitant themselves about following official advice."

Hauora Tairāwhiti chief executive Jim Green welcomed the results of the survey, saying all information about what was motivating people to get vaccinated or causing hesitation was valuable.

"I think there are some really important themes in there around people wanting advice and assurance around the safety of the vaccine and how it might affect them down the line.

"I think those are all important questions that people have had."

The district health board was planning to hold a webinar in which people could put their vaccine questions to the experts, which stemmed from the survey's findings and feedback from iwi.

"We're looking for any ideas that people might have that would make a difference for them or for others," Green said.

"We can facilitate these things. We've got the resources to be able to do this."

Green also acknowledged that the survey was just a small proportion of the 41,000 people eligible for vaccination in Tairāwhiti.

Eighty percent of respondents to the survey were female.

The higher proportion of the unvaccinated population in Tairāwhiti are male.

Of the responses, more than half were from people aged between 35 and 54 years.

Of the responses, 55 percent identified as Māori while 75 percent of all responders resided in the city and 25 percent were in rural areas.

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