Over 50s hesitant over COVID-19 vaccines threaten rollout, poll finds

Australia’s already troubled COVID-19 vaccine rollout is under threat from over 50s who are hesitant to be injected with either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer shot.

The latest Guardian Essential poll, which surveyed 1090 respondents, found that less than half of people aged over 50 are willing to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite the strong backing of Australia’s health officials.

The latest survey also tracked a significant increase among those that said they would never get vaccinated against COVID-19, rising to 16 per cent, up from 12 per cent just six weeks ago.

Read more: Voters divided over government’s COVID performance

Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that National Cabinet had agreed to bring forward the vaccination rollout for over 50s next month.

The revised plan will see state-run clinics offer the AstraZeneca jab to over 50s from 3 May, and at GP clinics from 17 May.

On Monday, health minister Greg Hunt said that more than 1.9 million Australians had received their vaccinations, with the federal government delivering about 1.2 million of those and the states responsible for over 733,000.

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The Guardian Essential poll describes one in six respondents as being ‘vaccine hesitant’, the highest proportion since data was first recorded in this survey in August last year.

Only 46 per cent of those aged over 50 said they were willing to take either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, and 39 per cent said that they were unwilling to take the recommended AstraZeneca jab.

According to the poll, those most likely to get the vaccine immediately were men (53 per cent) and those aged over 55, although willingness for this cohort had dropped from 60 per cent to 55 per cent since March.

Read more: National Cabinet to fast-track COVID-19 vaccination for over 50s

Confidence in the vaccine rollout has also taken a hit, with just 43 per cent of respondents believing that it was being done efficiently, down from 68 per cent when the survey was last conducted in March.

Mr Hunt, meanwhile, praised the work being done by GPs to deliver the vaccine across Australia and urged more people to register for the program.

“The general practice community has now delivered over a million vaccinations,” Mr Hunt said. “They are the backbone of our national vaccination program.

“We now have 1,002,420 vaccinations, which have been completed by Australia’s GPs right around the country.

“They’re accessible, they are working with people they know, and they have, as a consequence, the ability to vaccinate Australians right across this nation.”

Navy Commodore Eric Young, who has taken on the newly created role as the operations co-ordinator for the health department’s vaccine operations centre, said the department would be updating the eligibility checker this week and the vaccine clinic finder at health.gov.au to make sure that all Australians in phase 1 know how and where to access a vaccine.

Commodore Young also explained that supply, distribution and administration processes were becoming more efficient allowing for the rollout to speed up.

“Another 173,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine is going through batch release and sample testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration over the course of the next couple of days, and 707,000 doses of the onshore-produced AstraZeneca vaccine will also be going through batch release and sample testing,” Commodore Young said.

“Apart from the state and territory clinics, our focus for our service providers has been on vaccinating those most vulnerable in the 2500 residential aged care facilities.

“Last week, we had 181 first dose visits to residential aged care facilities and 168 second dose visits. Now, that takes our total of first dose visits to 492 and our total second dose visits to 878. That’s 2300 visits to residential aged care facilities.

“Critically last week, over 350,000 doses of vaccine were administered to vulnerable Australians, up from 330,000 the week before. And analysis shows that while the number of under 50s receiving AstraZeneca has necessarily reduced, that’s been offset by an overall increase in the vaccines administered.”

Have you had your vaccine shot yet? Will you register to join the front of the queue next month? What are your reasons for being hesitant about the vaccine?

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Written by Ben



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