Vaccine hesitancy continues to fall – with one exception

Jolyon Attwooll

14/10/2021 4:37:55 PM

Uncertainty about vaccination is continuing to fall across the country with just one state bucking the downward trend, new figures suggest.

A map of South Australia.
Vaccine hesitancy in South Australia has risen from 14.8% to 19.2% since mid-September.

South Australia has the highest vaccine hesitancy rate and is the only state where uncertainty increased in the past month, according to the latest update of the Melbourne Institute’s Vaccine Hesitancy Tracker.
In mid-September, the hesitancy rate in South Australia stood at 14.8% according to the data, but that figure climbed to 19.2% by 10 October. That is now the high watermark of vaccine hesitancy across the country on the tracker, which was refreshed this week.
At the other end of the spectrum is Victoria, the state which on Thursday registered the highest total of new daily cases recorded since the pandemic began. By contrast, it now has the lowest number of people reportedly hesitating to take a vaccine (10.1%).
Overall, the rate of vaccine hesitancy across the country is estimated at 13.3%. That includes both people who have stated they are unwilling to be vaccinated and those that say they ‘don’t know’.
It represents a significant shift in attitude towards the vaccine from mid-May, when reluctance hit its highest. At that point, 35.55% of people surveyed indicated either uncertainty about the vaccination program or unwillingness to take part. 
RACGP SA&NT Faculty Chair Dr Danny Byrne describes the latest figures as ‘a kick up the bum’ for the state.
‘The fact we’re out of kilter with the rest of Australia concerns me,’ he told newsGP.
He said the trend in South Australia is following an established pattern, with wealthier areas tending to have higher vaccination rates compared to places with a lower socio-economic profile.
While he noted the high proportion of elderly residents who have received their second dose, he said more people under the age of 40 needed to come forward.
‘We’re well aware of our areas that have the lowest uptake from looking at our LGA [local government area] figures,’ Dr Bryne said.
‘We’ve got to lift our game.
‘I’ve got people with cancer, with severe immune deficiencies, who are refusing to get vaccinated and it’s breaking my heart.’
Dr Byrne thinks the biggest influence and prompt for vaccination is likely to be the presence of the virus within the community, as has been seen in NSW and Victoria. However, he believes vaccination mandates also have an important role to play, pointing at the sharp uptake of vaccinations among aged care workers following a mandate for that sector.  
Currently public and private hospital workers in South Australia are required to have their first vaccine dose by 1 November, but mandates cover fewer residents than those established in other parts of the country.
‘I’d like to a mandate like the Northern Territory just brought in, [including] all public facing occupations,’ Dr Byrne said.
‘They gave the hospital worker mandate and all these workers who had been refusing have now come in, saying “I’ve got to do it for my job”. It works.’
Can hesitancy fall further?
Professor Anthony Scott of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has been helping to orchestrate the hesitancy tracker. Like Dr Byrne, he believes the rate is being strongly influenced by case numbers.
‘It’s obviously driven by what’s happened in New South Wales and in Victoria in terms of the major outbreaks that we’ve had,’ he told newsGP.
‘That alone makes people want to get vaccinated and change their minds, and particularly if it’s all around them in the communities.’
He believes the vaccine hesitancy tracker, a moving average of the views of 1200 respondents taking the Melbourne Institute’s Pulse of the Nation fortnightly survey, could show further falls – particularly given the extra freedoms vaccinated residents are likely to get as states open up.
‘We’re yet to see [vaccine hesitancy rates] bottom out,’ Professor Scott said. ‘We’ll just see what the next few weeks bring, particularly as New South Wales is starting to open up, and Melbourne will follow.
‘There have been strong incentives for opening up when we hit the targets. Those kinds of incentives have probably helped people to change their minds because they’re realising that, if we don’t get vaccinated, then we can’t have our freedoms back. [That] may influence things.’
The survey suggests those declaring themselves as unwilling to be vaccinated may be more easily influenced than previously anticipated. There was a drop from 8.2% to 6.9% of those declaring unwillingness to receive vaccination in the most recent survey.
Professor Scott also believes mandates could be having an impact.
‘Linking employment to vaccination, mandating vaccinations, that’s changing people’s minds, and obviously [people] realise that they won’t be able to get a job if they’re not vaccinated,’ he said.
While he believes the attitude towards vaccination is heading in the right direction, he warns against complacency as states across Australia face a likely surge in the presence of COVID-19.
‘Traditionally, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia have been the most vaccine hesitant, partly because they have had fewer cases than Victoria and New South Wales,’ he said.
‘People may be thinking, “Why should I get vaccinated now because there are no cases around me?” But the opposite is going to happen. Case numbers are going to start to rise, hospitalisations are going to start to rise and that may put another brake on their behaviour.
‘It’s really important not to take your foot off the pedal.’
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Dr Peter JD Spafford   15/10/2021 9:33:30 PM

So doing "for the job" counts as coercion, threatening, bullying. Call it what you want but it is not "consent"!!!!!