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:  16 June 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

  • 1,234 respondents between 28 and 30 May 2021
  • 1,387 respondents between 23 April and 2 May 2021
  • 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 – May 2021 

Accepting a vaccine

  • 77% of respondents not already vaccinated said they were likely to get vaccine.
  • Overall potential uptake, including those already vaccinated and those who are likely to get a vaccine, has increased to 80%, up from 77% in April and 69% in March.
  • Overall, 3,263,300 out of the estimated 4,082,500 New Zealanders aged 16+ say they are likely to get vaccinated or have already been vaccinated.
  • Māori potential uptake, including those already vaccinated and those who are likely to get a vaccine, is now at 75%, up from 71% in April 2021.
  • Pasifika potential uptake, including those already vaccinated and those who are likely to get a vaccine, is steady at 78%, similar to 79% in April 2021, but up from 59% in March 2021.
  • If the vaccine is made available for 12 to 15-year olds, 55% of caregivers are likely to allow the children they care for to be vaccinated. 

Barriers to uptake

  • Those who are unlikely to have a vaccine if offered remains steady at 13% (12% in April 2021). Of those, 7% will “definitely not” get a vaccine. Note that it is likely that, as the number vaccinated increases, those who are unlikely to get a vaccine will form a higher proportion of those who have not yet been vaccinated.
  • The highest percentage of respondents unlikely to get vaccinated are in Group 4, at 16%, with another 9% unsure. Those aged 45-54 years are the least likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The main reasons for being unsure or unlikely to get a vaccine continues to be concerns about long-term effects, safety and waiting to see if others have side-effects.
  • 55% of respondents who will ‘definitely not’ get a vaccine say they don’t see the need to get a vaccine.
  • If the vaccine is made available for 12 to 15-year olds, 16% of caregivers will ‘definitely not’ allow the children they care for to be vaccinated, up from 10% in April. The main reason for this is needing to be assured about vaccine safety for children.
  • Respondents who identified as disabled are more likely to reject getting vaccinated now (13%) than in April (8%), but are less likely to now be unsure (7% compared with 23% in April).
  • Respondents who identified as disabled said the reason they were unsure or unlikely to get a vaccine were:
    • they don't see the need to take a COVID-19 vaccine (54 compared with 21% overall)
    • they don’t trust any vaccine (31 compared with 18% overall)
    • they don’t take any vaccine (27 compared with 8% overall)
    • because of religious beliefs (23 compared with 4% overall).
  • DHB regions where the likelihood for respondents to accept a vaccine is lower than the national average include Waikato, Northland, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay,  and South Canterbury. (Hawke’s Bay, Tairawhiti, Taranaki and South Canterbury DHB sample sizes were less than 50, in line with their population proportion, so results are less statistically reliable and should be treated as an indication only.)

Making the decision to get a vaccine

  • 56% of respondents say that helping to protect all New Zealanders is a key reason that will influence them to get a vaccine.
  • In making the decision to get a vaccine, people continue to think about potential side effects, what might happen if they have an adverse reaction, how the vaccine will affect their health and that it is too soon see if there are long-term side effects.
  • People who are unlikely to get a vaccine or unsure will be influenced by information about side effects, knowing the vaccine has been through extensive trials and approved by Medsafe, and, to some extent, helping them to travel internationally.
  • As with the last report, people who live with impairments or long-term health conditions and those who identify as disabled were more concerned than average about whether the vaccine will adversely affect their existing medical conditions and symptoms, and whether it will leave their health worse overall. 
  • Those who identify as disabled continue to be more worried than average that there will be unknown side effects and, particularly, how the side-effects may affect them.
  • Under 18-year-olds and people aged 45 to 54 have a higher level of concern about the vaccine compared with other age ranges, and are concerned about side effects, how the vaccine will affect their health, what might happen if they have a reaction and long-term effects. 

Getting the vaccine

  • Respondents would prefer to get a vaccine from their doctor (68%), a practice nurse (39%) or a ‘pop up’ clinic (35%).
  • 30% of respondents believe they will be able to get vaccinated as soon the rollout for their group begins.
  • 53% of respondents believe the vaccine rollout timing will depend on the supply of the vaccine to New Zealand.
  • 44% of respondents believe the rollout programme may be different in different DHBs.
  • A quarter of respondents think the Ministry of Health is deciding how the rollout will happen in their region; a third think their DHB will.
  • 44% of respondents in Group 3 said they did not know how they would be offered a vaccine and 29% were not sure.
  • 50% of respondents in Group 3 said they did not know when they would be offered a vaccine and 26% were not sure.

Influencing uptake

  • 99% of respondents who have already been vaccinated are prepared to recommend getting vaccinated to people they know, and 75% will “recommend it to everyone”.
  • 34% of those who know someone who has been vaccinated (57% of total respondents) say that knowing someone who has had a COVID-19 vaccine makes them more inclined to do so themselves; 56% said it wouldn’t influence their decision. 
  • As with the last report, those who live with impairments or long-term health conditions and those who identify as disabled are more likely than average to respond to a personal conversation with a health provider they trust when it comes to influencing their decision.

Confidence in and knowledge about the vaccine

  • 77% of respondents believe people in New Zealand can choose whether or not to get vaccinated.
  • 72% of respondents believe people who have been vaccinated can still catch COVID-19, up from 57% in April.
  • Three-quarters believe they will need to continue with protective behaviours after being vaccinated.
  • Over the last three months, there has been an increase in the belief that people who have been vaccinated can still pass on COVID-19 to others, up to 54% from 44% in April and 40% in March. 32% currently are unsure.
  • Respondents who are vaccinated are more likely to believe that they could still pass on the COVID-19 virus to others (72%).

Communication and information 

  • The number of people who feel like they have all the information they need before deciding whether or not to get a vaccine has increased to 67% from 58% in April (56% in February and March).
  • Of those who have already received a vaccine, 92% felt they received enough information about their vaccination, slightly lower than 97% in April.
  • The two main things respondents want more information about are side effects and risks (27%) and the long-term effects of the vaccine, based on longer and/or more clinical studies (16%).
  • Respondents want more information on the logistics of how they will get their vaccine, to know that the information they receive is honest, more detailed content and more information on side effects. 
  • Television (59%) is the primary place where respondents have seen official COVID-19 information advertising, in the past 30 days, followed by social media (20%) and radio (19%).

Download the report

At a glance – COVID-19 vaccine research insights – May 2021 (PDF, 136 KB)

At a glance – April 2021 

Accepting a vaccine

(The statistics for potential uptake “overall”, “Māori” and “Pasifika” include those who have already been vaccinated.)

  • Potential uptake has increased to 77% from 69% in March 2021.
  • Overall, 3,147,200 out of the estimated 4,082,500 New Zealanders aged 16+ say they are likely to get vaccinated or have already been vaccinated. 
  • Māori potential uptake is now at 71%, up from 64% in March 2021.
  • Pasifika potential uptake has increased to 79%, up significantly from 59% in March 2021.
  • Those aged 65+ continue to be more likely to get a vaccine than other age groups.
  • The number of Māori and Pasifika respondents who were unsure if they would take a vaccine has dropped since March 2021 (from 18 to 12% and 32 to 9% respectively).
  • If the vaccine is made available for 12 to 15-year olds, 56% of caregivers are likely to allow the children they care for to be vaccinated.
  • While those who identified as disabled are more likely to be unsure about getting a vaccine, they are less likely to reject getting vaccinated than the overall population.  
     

Barriers to uptake

  • Those who are unlikely to have a vaccine if offered has dropped to 12% from 20% in March 2021. Of those, 7.8% will “definitely not” get a vaccine, slightly lower than previous surveys.
  • The highest percentage of people unlikely to get vaccinated are in Group 4, at 14%, with another 13% unsure.
  • The main reasons for being unsure or unlikely to get a vaccine are concerns about long-term effects, safety and waiting to see if others have side effects. 
  • 11% of those who are unsure or unlikely to get a vaccine say they have had a bad experience in the past when taking a vaccine.
  • 15% of respondents are unsure if they have to pay for the vaccine and 4% believe they do have to pay for the vaccine. This has decreased since March 2021. 
  • DHB regions where the likelihood for respondents to accept a vaccine is lower than the national average include Waikato, Lakes, Tairawhiti, Whanganui, Hutt, Wairarapa, West Coast and South Canterbury. (Lakes, Tairawhiti, Whanganui, Hutt, Waiarapa, West Coast and South Canterbury DHB sample sizes were less than 50, in line with their population proportion, so results are less statistically reliable and should be treated as an indication only.)

Making the decision to get a vaccine

  • The key factor that would convince people to get the vaccine is that it is proven effective and guaranteed safe with no major side effects. 
  • In making the decision to get a vaccine, people think about potential side effects, what might happen if they have an adverse reaction, how the vaccine will affect their health and that it is too soon see if there are long-term side effects.
  • People who live with impairments or long-term health conditions and those who identify as disabled are more concerned than average about whether the vaccine will adversely affect their existing medical conditions and symptoms and whether it will leave their health worse overall.

Influencing uptake

  • The Director General of Health (41%) and the Prime Minister (34%) have significantly more impact than TV or radio personalities (14%), sports stars (16%) and other well-known/high profile people (17%) in influencing people to get vaccinated. 
    • Each of these potential role models will have significantly less impact on Māori than on other ethnicities.
    • Influencers will be most effective on those who are likely to get vaccinated and possibly help reinforce their decision. 
  • Those who live with impairments or long-term health conditions and those who identify as disabled are more likely than average to respond to a personal conversation with a health provider they trust when it comes to influencing their decision. 

Confidence in and knowledge about the vaccine

  • Brand of vaccine will impact the decision of one in six (an estimated 557,500) of those who are either likely to get a vaccine or are unsure. 
    • Most of those who say brand will impact their decision to accept a vaccine were concerned about potential blood clotting caused by vaccines.
  • 26% of respondents say they know what the side effects will be after taking a vaccine.  Asked what they thought the side effects of the vaccine were:
    • 29% said blood clots (noting that while the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is not prone to blood clotting, it should not be assumed that people know that)
    • aching, flu-like or cold-like symptoms (28%)
    • localised pain or soreness (23%).  
  • Approximately 50% of respondents do not know what the side effects of the vaccine are. 
  • Just over half of respondents (57%) believe that people who have been vaccinated can still get COVID-19.
  • Just under half of respondents (44%) believe that people who have been vaccinated can still pass on COVID-19 to others. 36% are unsure. 
  • Overall, the number of people who are concerned about whether or not the vaccine has gone through extensive, properly conducted, medical trials has dropped to 36% from 60% in December 2020. 

Communication and information 

  • Of those who have already received a vaccine, 97% felt they received enough information about their vaccination.
  • People who need to be assured about the vaccine’s safety want more information on:
    • side effects and risks particularly in relation to blood clots
    • the long-term effects of the vaccine based on longer and/or more clinical studies (particularly for those who are unlikely to get vaccinated).
  • More than other ethnic groups, Asian and Indian respondents said social media posts and what other people say would impact decision on whether to take a vaccine. 
  • 38% had encountered what they believed to be misinformation.  
    • The main sources were social media (65%) followed by friends or family (32%) then mainstream media (25%).
    • 61% who had seen misinformation indicated they would look for official information to verify it. 
    • 9% of those who had seen something they thought was misinformation would not get a vaccine if the misinformation they saw actually alarmed them; this increases to 15% for people who identify as disabled.

Download the report

At a glance – COVID-19 vaccine research insights – April 2021 (PDF, 134 KB)

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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