COVID-19: Vaccine research insights

This research is part of an ongoing series that looks into New Zealanders’ attitudes and public sentiment towards the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last updated: 30 April 2021

Background

In 2020, Horizon Research, in association with the School of Population Health, University of Auckland, was commissioned to survey New Zealanders’ attitudes and sentiment towards COVID-19 vaccines.

Four distinct but related online surveys have been undertaken.

Number of people participating in the surveys

  • 1,350 respondents between 26 March and 1 April 2021
  • 1,317 respondents between 16 and 19 February 2021
  • 1,438 respondents between 1 and 4 December 2020
  • 1,451 respondents between 24 and 28 September 2020

Key research insights

At a glance – March 2021 

Accepting a vaccine

  • There is demand to access the vaccine early, with 15% (an estimated 612,200 adults) stating they would take it immediately if it was available.
  • Across the past seven months of research, the percentage of those likely to take a vaccine remains steady, with 69% of respondents prepared to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • While people’s intention to accept or not accept a COVID-19 vaccine remains steady, the number of those who said they were unsure or unlikely to take a vaccine and who needed assurances about vaccine safety overall has fallen 11% since December 2020 to 40%.

Barriers to uptake

  • Over the past seven months of research, the number of people in the general population who will definitely not take a vaccine remains unchanged. This number is unlikely to change greatly and is predicted to remain at about 9.4%.
  • 20% of respondents (including the ‘definitely not’ 9.4%) are unlikely to have a COVID-19 vaccine if offered (an estimated 798,000 adults). This remains steady.
  • The number of respondents who were unsure if they would take a COVID-19 vaccine is similar to the September and December results, with 11% unsure, and marginally higher than the February results (7%).
  • The percentage of Māori and Pasifika who are unlikely to take a vaccine has dropped substantially from a peak in December 2020 – 27% to 18% and 34% to 9% respectively. However, those who will likely take a vaccine has not changed as significantly.
  • Those who are unlikely to take the vaccine are likely to believe that the vaccine is not free.
  • The main reasons for not taking a vaccine continue to be about long-term effects, effects on health and that it might not be effective. Noting that concerns about side-effects have declined slightly, while concerns about long-term effects are now the main reason for not taking a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • People in Groups 3 and 4 of the rollout plan have a better understanding of what group they fall into, whereas people who are in Groups 1 and 2 were less sure of what group they are in.

Confidence in the vaccine

  • Around two-thirds of respondents were confident that any vaccine made available in New Zealand would prevent COVID-19 infection or severe death/illness from COVID-19. This has not changed since December 2020 when it was 67%.
  • Confidence in COVID-19 vaccines meeting safety and quality standards is 70% and has remained steady since December 2020.
  • New Zealanders appear to be requiring less reassurance on clinical trials and side effects than seen in the December 2020 and February 2021 research, but both of these remain major considerations for those who are unlikely to take a vaccine.

Factors that can influence uptake

Factors that can influence vaccine acceptance remain similar to previous surveys but focus more on the benefits of the vaccine rather than testing and approvals

These include:

  • Helping to protect all New Zealanders.
  • The vaccine is free.
  • Helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic more quickly.
  • Helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and the prospect of further lockdowns and economic harm.
  • Being vaccinated will protect me from the effects of COVID-19.

Communication and information needs

  • There continues to be a need for more information to help people decide whether to take the COVID-19 vaccine; in particular for Pasifika.
  • The key assurances/messages most sought by those currently not choosing to take a vaccine are about long-term side effects and safety (58% and 40% respectively).
  • When asked what information people needed about the rollout plan, respondents who had not yet had a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine said they wanted to know more about:
    • the vaccine’s side effects and what would happen if they had an adverse reaction.
    • where and when to get a vaccination, how to make an appointment/book for a vaccination and whether they had a choice of location.
    • how the vaccine works and what is in it.
  • Of those who have already received a vaccine, 92% felt they received enough information about their vaccination.
  • Television New Zealand (TVNZ) is by far the most common source of information about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Download the report

At a glance – COVID-19 vaccine research insights – March 2021 (PDF, 137 KB)

At a glance – February 2021

Accepting a vaccine

  • Across the past six months, the percentage of those likely to take a vaccine remains steady, with 71.4% of respondents (an estimated 2,662,700 adults) prepared to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Those aged 65+ years continue to be the most likely to take a vaccine, followed by those aged 18–24 years.
  • The number of 18–24 year olds who would definitely take a vaccine has increased by 20% since December 2020 (48% in February up from 28% in December 2020).
  • People indicated their preferred locations to receive a vaccination were:
    • via a general practitioner
    • a practice nurse
    • a medical specialist
    • at a pharmacy or hospital
    • via a district health nurse
    • at a ‘pop-up’ community vaccination service.

Barriers to uptake

  • Over the past six months, the number of people in the general population who will definitely not take a vaccine remains relatively unchanged.
  • This number is unlikely to change greatly and is predicted to remain at about 9.5%.
  • 7.2% (an estimated 257,300 adults) were unsure if they would take a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 21.4% of respondents (including the ‘definitely not’ 9.5%) are unlikely to have a COVID-19 vaccine if offered (an estimated 798,000 adults). This is a slight decrease from the previous survey.
  • The main concerns about taking a vaccine continue to be about side effects, any long-term effects from the vaccine, effects on health and that it might not be effective.
  • 70% of those who are likely to take a vaccine (even those who ‘definitely will’) indicate a need for more information (an estimated 1,869,300 adults), including side effects, contraindications and adverse reactions.
  • Pasifika, Asian and Indian have the highest need for more information overall.
  • People who are unlikely to take an offered COVID-19 vaccine remains the same. They are more likely to:
    • be female
    • have a lower household income than those who are likely to take a vaccine if offered
    • have lower educational qualifications than those who are likely to take a vaccine if offered
    • be a parent with children in their household.

Safety

  • Two-thirds of respondents were confident that any vaccine made available in New Zealand would prevent COVID-19 infection or severe death/illness from COVID-19.
  • While confidence in COVID-19 vaccines meeting safety and quality standards has gradually increased over the last three months, the major reasons for hesitancy remains concern about the vaccine’s safety.

Factors that can influence uptake remain the same

  • The vaccine is free.
  • The vaccine has been through extensive, properly conducted, clinical trials.
  • Helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and the prospect of further lockdowns and economic harm.
  • Helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic more quickly.
  • Helping protect the health of my family and those closest to me.

Channels for communication

Over the past six months, the most trusted avenues for people to get their information continue to be the Ministry of Health (health.govt.nz), the Director General of Health, individuals’ own general practitioners, and medical specialists.

Download the report

At a glance – COVID-19 vaccine research insights – February 2021 (PDF, 131 KB)

At a glance – September and December 2020

Accepting a vaccine

  • 69% (an estimated 2,487,900 adults) of respondents are prepared to receive a “well tested and approved” COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Uptake is likely to be highest among those aged 65 and over.

Barriers to uptake

  • 24% of respondents indicated that they would be unlikely to have a COVID-19 vaccine if offered.
  • 16% of New Zealand adults will not accept an offered vaccine. Between the first and the second Horizon Research reports, there is a slight increase in overall vaccine hesitancy (if not a reduction in overall ‘acceptance’ numbers).
  • Pasifika and Māori have less confidence in the safety and quality of the vaccine and of its protection.
  • People who are unlikely to take an offered COVID-19 vaccine are more likely to:
    • be female
    • have a lower household income than those who are likely to take a vaccine if offered
    • have lower educational qualifications than those who are likely to take a vaccine if offered
    • be a parent with children in their household
  • Māori, Pasifika and Other European, and people who are 35-44 years, are less willing to take a follow-up vaccine.
  • In December, 72% (2,574,200) of respondents are prepared to have a follow-up dose if required, up 3% from September.
  • 18% (an estimated 652,600 adults) are unlikely to have a follow-up dose if required.
  • Respondents of Māori, Pasifika and “Other European” ethnicities had lower than average willingness to take a follow-up vaccine.

Safety

  • The major reasons for hesitancy towards a vaccine are concerns regarding the vaccine’s safety. This is particularly the case for females.
  • When considering whether to take a COVID-19 vaccine, the top four thoughts that New Zealanders have are about potential side effects.
  • A third of people believe vaccines can be approved without knowing all the potential side effects.

Key insights that will influence uptake and understanding of the rollout approach

  • Māori are marginally more likely to take the vaccine if they could ‘talk to someone about it’ first.
  • People are more receptive to recommendations from the Ministry of Health, the Director General of Health, medical specialists, GPs and the World Health Organisation than to recommendations from Ministers, the Prime Minister, friends, family, iwi or hapū leaders, and church leaders.
  • 21% of participants said they would not take a COVID-19 vaccine if a social media post or video alarmed them or was opposed to COVID-19 vaccines and looked credible.
  • There is broad understanding and support for prioritising the rollout to groups and individuals who are at highest risk (border workers/health workers) and/or more vulnerable.

Download the report

At a glance – COVID-19 vaccine research insights – September and December 2020 (PDF, 129 KB)

Download the full reports

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