An expert in health communication says while a survey shows Kiwis’ willingness to get the Covid-19 vaccine is higher than ever, it’s concerning that most people aren’t seeing public health messages about the rollout.
According to new data collected by Massey University in its survey of 1100 people about Covid-19 , as of May, less than one third of respondents said they’d seen the Government’s communications campaign about getting the Covid-19 vaccine.
Massey University communications lecturer Dr Jagadish Thaker said that was a “surprising and worrying” finding in the wake of concerns about vaccine misinformation , especially among port workers.
“It’s also worrying because a majority of the vaccine hesitant and skeptic are looking for information from the Government,” Thaker told Breakfast.
But, he said information wasn’t necessarily the silver bullet to tackling vaccine hesitancy.
“It’s not so simple. It’s not a truth serum being injected into us. Knowledge alone does not help motivate people,” Thaker said.
“We should also try to get into social norms, get community members talking about it [and] get vaccinated with others.”
He also warned that it wasn’t just outright misinformation that could discourage vaccination — “hesitancy stories” about people turning down the jab because of potential, and most often mild, side effects could also lead to a decline in people wanting to get vaccinated.
“[Misinformation] clouds our judgment. It makes us a little more hesitant. It makes us postpone getting a vaccine. It decreases our risk perception — we feel the disease is not as powerful or the vaccine is not going to solve all those problems.”
The good news was, though, that correcting false information can encourage people to trust the vaccine, he said.
Thaker encouraged health officials to use local leaders and GPs to reach into their communities.
The Ministry of Health is taking numerous communication approaches to encourage vaccine take-up , including question-and-answer forums, engaging with unions and employers, and fact sheets.
Efforts are also being made to increase vaccination uptake at the country’s ports, a sector that Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said had a “high degree of resistance” to the jab because of misinformation.
These efforts include one-on-one sessions between people who had questions about the Covid-19 vaccine and health professionals.