About 20% of people in recent survey said they wouldn't take COVID-19 vaccine
Research being done by University of Regina psychology professor
Researchers are racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, but new data suggests that some people wouldn't get vaccinated even if that option became available.
Gordon Asmundson, a psychology professor at the University of Regina, is studying how psychological factors affect COVID-19's spread.
The study involves three waves of surveying and is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as part of their COVID-19 Rapid Response Initiative.
Asmundson received $400,000 in funding for his research project COVID-19: The Role of Psychological Factors in the Spreading of Disease, Discrimination, and Distress, undertaken in collaboration with Steven Taylor from the University of British Columbia.
"About 20 per cent of individuals indicated [in the first wave of surveying] that should a vaccine become available, they won't be likely to take it," Asmundson said. "That's concerning given all of the push and efforts to find that vaccine."
The sample size for the first wave was just shy of 7,000 people in Canada and the United States. The data was collected through an internet self-report survey done by data-gathering company Qualtrics between March 21 and April 1.
"If one in five people are not going to take it, that's going to have a significant impact on the effectiveness of [stopping] the virus, of mitigating spread."
Last year, WHO named "vaccine hesitancy" — people unsure about the safety or efficacy of vaccines — a Top 10 threat to global health.
Asmundson said data on vaccine hesitancy will be published within the next month, following the second wave of collection.
Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab was not available for an interview, according to the Ministry of Health. He has previously said restrictions like physical distancing will be in place until a vaccine, a treatment or significant immunity is in place.
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Other factors assessed
Asmundson said they are conducting two more waves of surveying so they can measure potential changes in attitude. This will offer insight into how people are emotionally responding to COVID-19, which is "not a one-size fits all stressor."
For example, some questions look at dreaming and sleep patterns.
"Those who are most anxious are coping by sleeping more but they're also reporting more trouble sleeping," Asmundson said based on the first survey results.
People reported more intrusive thoughts while awake and more bad dreams featuring bad outcomes while asleep.
Asmundson said it's no surprise the virus is lurking in people's dreams because of the "constant barrage of media attention," changes to daily life and a rising global death toll. Intense emotions like fear often fuel dream content, he added, as the brain uses dreams to process information.
"This is having a huge toll on people," he said. "It's really important for people to stop and check how they're doing in terms of their mental health."
He said the data collection has also shown that there is a group of people who appear extraordinarily overwhelmed by the virus. In contrast, there is another group of people who aren't particularly concerned by it and might not adhere to public health advice, which could affect how the virus spreads.
The end goal of the research is to develop a "rapid assessment system that can be used to assess, for any pandemic or major epidemic, infection-related excessive anxiety and xenophobia, and risk factors for these problems."