Vaccine hesitancy hits new low in Australia

Jolyon Attwooll

1/11/2021 2:36:49 PM

The downwards trend has been almost continuous for the past five months.

Line of people at vaccine hub
The Vaccine Hesitancy Tracker suggests just 11.8% of Australians either do not know if they will have a vaccine or are unwilling to receive one. (Image: AAP)

Vaccine hesitancy has fallen to its lowest point of the pandemic, new figures from the Melbourne Institute suggest.
The organisation’s Vaccine Hesitancy Tracker, which is updated every fortnight, shows the number of people on the fence about receiving a vaccine is continuing to decline.
The downwards trend has been almost continuous for the past five months.
The rate of vaccine hesitancy in the country reached its highest level in May this year, when 33% of respondents indicated uncertainty or reluctance about receiving a vaccine.
As of 21 October, the most recent date for which figures are available, the tracker suggested 11.8% of Australians either do not know if they will have a vaccine or are unwilling to receive one.
Extrapolating that result suggests the country can reach an overall vaccination rate of 88.2% if Australians mirror the attitudes recorded in the survey.
In addition to people who do not know whether they will have a vaccine, there are fewer who say they are not willing to be vaccinated at all.
Nationwide, just 6.2% of people said they are not willing to be vaccinated, with that attitude at its most prevalent among 14–44-year-olds.
According to the tracker, hesitancy is falling across all age groups and is the prevailing trend among males and females.
Almost all states are showing a similar momentum, with only Western Australia demonstrating a higher level of hesitancy since the last time the figures were updated, rising from 13.6% to 15.6%.
South Australia remains the highest overall, although the trend in that state is more encouraging, with a fall from 19.2% to 17.9% for the latest survey.
Since the last time the tracker was updated, the South Australian Government has expanded a vaccination mandate to cover almost all health workers and the state’s its police force.
Queensland has the next highest level of hesitancy at 16.4%, according to the tracker. Queensland and Western Australia also have the lowest first dose coverage in Australia.
People living in the states at the centre of the recent, and ongoing, Delta outbreak show the highest motivation for getting vaccinated. Hesitancy is at its lowest overall among respondents in Victoria, at 8.2%.
Professor Anthony Scott of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research previously told newsGP that hesitancy rates could fall further, which has proven to be the case.
He said earlier this month that linking freedoms to vaccination status is having an effect. 
‘There’s been strong incentives for opening up when we hit the targets,’ he said. ‘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.’
Professor Scott also believes mandates are having a significant 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.
The Melbourne Institute’s hesitancy tracker is a moving average of the views expressed by 1200 respondents contributing to a broader Pulse of the Nation fortnightly survey.
Nine Newspapers also reported a separate survey showing that vaccine hesitancy has ‘collapsed’ in recent months, although respondents to its poll expressed concerns about the pace of reopening.
Only 48% of those polled agreed that the speed of the economy’s reopening was ‘about right’, with those in Victoria expressing the least support.
Of those who did not support the pace of change in that state, 30% said it is reopening too slowly, compared to 19% who said things are moving too quickly.
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