Almost seven out of 10 physicians fear Manitoba won’t reach herd immunity at current COVID-19 vaccine projections because of hesitancy, while the majority of practitioners feel the rollout is taking far too long to immunize those who are keen for a jab right now.
A new report from Doctors Manitoba provides insight into how physicians across the province are feeling about the pandemic and the provincial immunization campaign.
While the report indicates 95 per cent of all physicians have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, it highlights key concerns physicians have about both the third wave and getting doses into the arms of all Manitobans in a timely manner.
It cites both a Doctors Manitoba survey of 1,022 physicians conducted over the first 11 days of April and a Probe Research study of 1,000 Manitoba adults during the April 5-14 period.
The 20-page document, which is titled COVID-19 Vaccines: Confidence, Hesitancy and Access, will be made public today.
“Our research found nearly all doctors in Manitoba have already received the vaccine. We hope this helps to reassure those with concerns that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective,” said Keir Johnson, spokesman for Doctors Manitoba, in a statement to the Free Press.
Johnson said Sunday the organization wants to give provincial officials and medical experts a chance to review the report before providing further comment on it.
Last week, Manitoba surpassed a note-worthy milestone of immunizing 20 per cent of all residents who are 18 and older.
Public health officials have indicated Manitoba will start to see herd immunity benefits when 70 to 85 per cent of the population has some protection, be it from receiving a vaccine or via past infection.
Per the Doctors Manitoba report, 74 per cent of adults are “vaccine willing,” which means they have already received the vaccine or plan to get it as soon as possible; however, the report notes herd immunity applies to an entire population, and thus, must take children and youth residents into account.
When the numbers are adjusted to reflect that no one under 18 can get a vaccine at present, only 57 per cent of the total population appears to be “vaccine willing.”
“Vaccine hesitancy among the public continues to be a major concern for physicians,” states the report, which indicates hesitancy can take many forms, including: concerns about vaccine side effects, difficulty accessing vaccines, or not feeling COVID-19 is a risk to one’s personal health.
“Because the COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved in Manitoba for those under the age of 18, more adults will need to get immunized to reach herd immunity,” it adds.
The data show young men with lower education levels are the most likely to be hesitant.
Citing accurate information from trustworthy sources as key to reassuring patients, Doctors Manitoba has put together a one-stop site (www.manitobavaccine.ca/) to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines and promote them as both safe and effective.
The organization also recommends the province utilize doctor’s offices to administer vaccines, saying hesitant adults — especially those who are either young, parents, or from low income households (or a combination of all three) — are more likely to get immunized at such a site.
Only the AstraZeneca vaccine is currently available at doctor’s offices, in limited supply.
Not only would supplying doctor’s offices with more vaccines improve hesitancy rates, according to the Doctors Manitoba report, but the organization also argues it would improve the rollout speed.
“In jurisdictions leading the world on rapidly administering vaccines, and in immunizing more of their citizens, they leverage their existing ‘immunization infrastructure’ first because it is reliable, familiar and trusted by the public,” the new report states.
It notes that government-run mass clinics supplement existing infrastructure in other jurisdictions.
As of Sunday, 336,138 doses have been administered and almost 25 per cent of adults in the province have received a jab.
Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press