Growing concerns over side-effects not helping vaccine rollout

Australians are increasingly concerned about blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and other potential side-effects, leading to a growing belief the government is not handling the rollout well.

A new Australian National University (ANU) survey of 3286 Australians revealed that only 3.7 per cent of people thought the process for individuals receiving the vaccine was going very well and around two-thirds thought the process was not going well.

The study also shows that there is a very large proportion of Australians concerned about possible side-effects if they do take one of the current vaccine options.

Read more: What to do now that you are eligible

Less than one in five (18.4 per cent) was not concerned about side-effects.

In contrast, 39.5 per cent of Australians were slightly concerned, 20.3 per cent were moderately concerned, and 21.8 per cent were very concerned.

Women and people who speak a language other than English were the groups most concerned about potential side-effects.

Read more: Can genetics influence how you respond to the vaccine?

Concerns about side-effects was the main reason Australians said they wouldn’t take a hypothetical vaccine, accounting for 63 per cent of people who don’t want the shot, explained study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle.

“On top of that, 50.4 per cent of people who said they wouldn’t take a vaccine said their decision was based on recent news about the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting,” Prof. Biddle said.

“In the same group, 31.6 per cent said they didn’t know if the vaccine would work, 26.7 said they didn’t trust COVID vaccines and 18.9 per cent said they didn’t trust the government.”

Older Australians were less concerned about the vaccine not working, and less likely to say they did not need the vaccine.

Read more: Handwashing responsible for bacterial communities in your sink

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of adult Australians think the government’s vaccine rollout is not being handled well.

The study also found that 33 per cent of Australians thought the way that vaccines were being rolled out was very fair.

“These findings are extremely important as the government attempts to reconcile public sentiment and confidence in its vaccine program at a time when there are questions about how fast it is being delivered across our community,” Prof. Biddle said.

Responses in Australia are very different to responses in the United States.

In the US, Americans were far more likely than Australians to think the vaccination process was going very well or somewhat well, but were less likely to think the process was very fair.

General practitioners are still struggling with supply shortfalls after being refused more AstraZeneca doses, according to a report in The Guardian on Wednesday.

In many cases, GPs had made direct requests to the federal government for increases to their allotted vaccine supply but were rejected.

In more positive news, the study found there has been an increase in the number of Australians who say they would get a ‘safe and effective vaccine’ between January and April 2021.

“When we asked a similar question in January, only 43.7 per cent of Australians said they would definitely get a safe vaccine. This jumped to 54.7 per cent in April,” Prof. Biddle said.

“However, this number is still lower compared to August 2020 when we first asked the question, with 58.5 per cent of Australians saying they would get a safe vaccine at that point in time.

“Even so, it would appear that willingness to receive a hypothetical safe and effective vaccine has stayed quite high.”

To achieve herd immunity, a very high percentage of the Australian population needs to be vaccinated.

An important finding is that close to 60 per cent of people who would be considered ‘resistant’ (those who said they would not be vaccinated) in January 2021 did not hold the same view three months later.

The study is also the first in Australia to measure the determinants of vaccination rates, estimating that 9.3 per cent of adults had been vaccinated.

Vaccination rates were higher for those with a higher level of education.

People who reported having higher rates of vaccine willingness in January 2021 were more likely to have been vaccinated by April 2021.

How do you think the vaccine rollout is progressing? Are you disappointed with Australia’s progress? Are you concerned about possible side-effects?

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Written by Ben