Coronavirus: Vaccinologist says poll showing 550,000 Kiwis are hesitant of COVID-19 vaccine isn't too concerning

A vaccinologist says new data showing more than 550,000 New Zealanders are unlikely to accept a COVID-19 vaccination isn't too concerning.

Ministry of Health data released on Sunday found that the main reason Kiwis say they are unlikely to be vaccinated is that they want to "wait and see if others who have taken it suffer any side effects". 

The polling was carried out by Horizon Research and the University of Auckland's School of Population Health in September and December last year. 

It shows 69 percent of people would be prepared to accept a "well-tested and approved" vaccine, while 24 percent were unlikely to and 11 percent said they definitely wouldn't receive a vaccine. 

University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris told Newshub the research isn't all bad news. 

Petousis-Harris said it's normal to be unsure about new things but as more people are safely vaccinated, that fear will ease. 

"I don't think we necessarily need to be too concerned. We know there are a lot of people adopting a wait and see approach, they're a little bit hesitant, they're unsure." 

"Since that research was done, we are approaching 300 million people who have been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. So we are getting a lot of experience quite quickly.

"I want to start reassuring people, we have seen a lot of data and so far it is looking really good." 

She said it's now crucial that the Ministry of Health ramps up its advertising so people are getting the right information. 

"If we can do our job right and have all the right discussions and have lots of opportunities for people to ask questions and have them answered, then I think we can do really well. So I have some optimism around that." 

She said while the Ministry has the right strategy, it needs to be doing more to get the message out there. 

"I think we need a lot more information out there, we need it going out through channels that work for different people and having different people giving those messages as well." 

"We need a variety of messages in a variety of places to make sure we reach everybody.  And to be honest I am not seeing enough of that at the moment."

The online survey had 1438 respondents and the sample was weighted to reflect the wider population.

The poll also showed that the majority of people support prioritising certain groups ahead of others in the vaccination rollout. 

Seventy-one percent of people were supportive of that approach, while 15 percent were neutral and 6 percent were unsure. Only 8 percent disagreed. 

Border and health works are being prioritised in New Zealand's vaccine rollout with 9000 frontline workers receiving the vaccine last week.

The Government has set aside almost $1 billion from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to secure access to COVID-19 vaccines. It will be New Zealand's largest immunisation rollout ever.