Staggering number of Aussies against jab
A staggering number of Australians have expressed reluctance to putting their arm forward for a COVID-19 vaccination, according to a new survey released by the federal government.
In the findings released on Tuesday night, 27 per cent of eligible Australian respondents aged over 16 were unsure if they would get a jab while 9 per cent said they would definitely not get the vaccine, with the main causes of the reluctance being a belief the long term side effects were unknown and the jabs were developed too quickly.
Only 48 per cent of the respondents said they would get the vaccine as soon as it was available, providing a concern to health authorities as the rollout is due to begin at the end of the month.
But the attitudes towards the vaccines appear to improve the longer the scheme is scheduled to be dispersed across the population, with 64 per cent saying they would definitely get it at some stage and 71 per cent declaring they would choose to have it some time by October.
Curiously, the reservations are at odds with the understanding among respondents about the importance of the vaccine: 86 per cent agree the jab will help protect vulnerable Australians and 79 per cent agree vaccines across the population will reduce the risk of the health system being overwhelmed.
The three main motivators for choosing to take the jab, according to the government-commissioned survey, is protecting themselves from catching the deadly virus, keeping the country safe from coronavirus and protecting the elderly and most vulnerable.
The results follow findings from research group Ipsos earlier this month which found three in four Australians were willing to get the vaccine when it became available, revealing similar concerns about the rapid development.
"The early hesitancy we saw around the globe wasn't being driven by the public buying into conspiracy theories," Ipsos Australia director Jessica Elgood said.
"It was more likely to be reasonable, thoughtful people being hesitant because they didn't know what they needed to know to make the right decision."
The Pfizer vaccine arrived on Australian shores this week and the Australian government has also thrown its support behind the AstraZeneca jab following fears over its effectiveness in people aged over 65.
On Tuesday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) granted the AstraZeneca jab approval for use in people aged 18 and above, placing no upper age limit on its recommendation.
European regulators had butted heads over whether to approve the vaccine for people aged above 65 amid concerns over its effectiveness in that age group.
But the TGA quelled those fears, announcing approval on Tuesday and saying there were "no safety concerns in this age group" arising from clinical trials.
The administration's John Skerritt said the jab's rollout in the UK, where there was no upper age limit, showed a strong immune response among the elderly.
"Our analysis of the data gives us no reason to suspect that the vaccine would not be fully efficacious in older groups," he said.
Various European countries have put an upper limit of 65 on the AstraZeneca vaccine, while Italy restricted its use to people under 55.
The TGA recommended a "case-by-case" assessment before administering the jab to people aged over 65 but Professor Skerritt clarified the only time the jab should not be recommended was when administering it would be futile.
"If someone only has a few weeks to live, you won't give them a hip replacement and may not give them a vaccine," he said.
"That's what we're talking about, but the vaccine is recommended for use in all ages."
Australia has ordered 53.8 million AstraZeneca doses, 3.8 million of those sourced from overseas, with drug manufacturer CSL to produce the other 50 million doses in Melbourne in a move the government says will safeguard Australia against international supply issues.
The overseas doses are set to be administered in early March, with the Australian-produced doses to follow later that month.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said attention would turn to ensuring the vaccine was spread quickly and effectively across the country.
"It's going to make a huge difference to how we live here in Australia this year and in the years ahead," he said.
The jab will be administered in two doses, which are recommended to be spaced 12 weeks apart.
- With Finn McHugh
Originally published as Staggering number of Aussies against jab