Manitoba campaign aims to combat COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy
Data released by province suggests 80% of Manitobans likely to get vaccinated
Roughly 80 per cent of Manitobans say they are likely to get a coronavirus vaccine or have already gotten one, according to data released by the provincial government Wednesday.
Over the last three months, health officials have routinely included questions about vaccine intentions in their public opinion surveys through the EngageMB website.
Based on responses from roughly 100,000 Manitobans, the province says around 63 per cent of Manitobans who responded to the surveys said they are highly likely to get a vaccine as soon as it's available to them.
Another 12 per cent said they are likely to get vaccinated, but aren't in a rush. Six per cent of Manitobans have already received a vaccine, according to the province.
Another nine per cent of people surveyed are considered "skeptical," meaning that they may be ambivalent or have concerns about getting a vaccine, while 10 per cent are considered "inaccessible," meaning they can't be convinced to get a vaccine for one reason or another.
The numbers were released as part of the launch of a campaign to try to combat vaccine hesitancy and encourage people to get immunized.
Dubbed #ProtectMB, the campaign includes a website with information on vaccine effectiveness and safety, as well as a page attempting to debunk common myths about the vaccines.
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the province's vaccine implementation task force, said there will always be people who refuse to get vaccinated.
WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer urges all eligible Manitobans to get immunized for COVID-19:
Epidemiological modelling has shown that to achieve herd immunity, the province needs at least 70 per cent of eligible people to get vaccinated.
"So when I see that over 80 per cent of Manitobans are eager to get the vaccine, I'm really encouraged by that," she said during a Wednesday news conference.
"If we can get 80 per cent of Manitobans immunized, we're going to be in a completely different situation than we were at this time last year."
Targeting those highly likely to get vaccine
Public health communication researchers say getting an accurate gauge on people's intentions regarding vaccines depends greatly on when and how they're asked about it.
Michelle Driedger studies risk communication and public health in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.
She says focus groups conducted in December in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto found more people were in what she called the "movable middle" category.
"So people who are not opposed to the idea, [but] they're not quite in your keener category," she said. "They want to have some more information and a better understanding before they make a choice."
An online survey of 1,000 members of a research panel released by Prairie Research Associates in January found that 18 per cent of respondents were "somewhat hesitant" to get a vaccine, while another 19 per cent were either hesitant or very hesitant.
That survey does not have a margin of error because it isn't a randomized sample.
The Manitoba government's persuasion campaign targets those people who are seen as highly likely to get the vaccine— a group that tends to be older and includes more women than men — in the hope they will help convince other groups that might be reluctant.
Heidi Tworek, a health communications researcher at the University of British Columbia, says people are more likely to get a vaccine if they know someone else who has gotten one.
"The one potential stumbling block is people developing preferences for one [vaccine] over the other," she said.
Tworek and Driedger also caution that the way the "myths versus facts" information is presented on the #ProtectMB website could have the unintended consequence of cementing the false information in the minds of some readers, since the website presents the "myth" before giving the accurate information.
That could have a "boomerang effect, in that it can keep the myth more securely anchored in someone's mind than the factual information," Driedger said.
A spokesperson for Doctors Manitoba says the organization, which represents physicians in the province, supports the province's campaign.
"The research we've seen about the public's views of the vaccine is similar. It confirms that without addressing vaccine hesitancy, we may not see enough Manitobans get the vaccine to get us to herd immunity," said Kier Johnson.
Doctors Manitoba has launched its own online campaign to provide information about vaccines at ManitobaVaccine.ca.
Tworek also cautions against writing off 10 per cent of the population as "inaccessible."
"There are ways in which people who felt very strongly against vaccines go and talk to a doctor and then they do change their mind," she said.