Surveys point to Saskatchewan COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

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Surveys point to Saskatchewan COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy
WATCH: While the supply of COVID-19 vaccines continues to grow, critics say the Saskatchewan government has to do more to reach out to people who are hesitant about the shot – Jun 14, 2021

It’s been more than six months since the first COVID-19 vaccines were delivered in Saskatchewan.

As the summer is about to officially start soon, there is concern those who don’t have their first shot might not get it.

“Those keeners have already got their shot. In fact, they’re getting their second shot now,” University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine said.

“But (there is) still a good 30 per cent or more of our population who don’t even have one dose.”

The Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) has been collecting data on the public’s pandemic behaviour. The latest report shows people living in some rural southern and central communities are less likely to follow public health measures and be inoculated.

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The Saskatchewan government has said this isn’t something it’s looking at.

“Our government is not considering a vaccination lottery,” read a government statement to Global News on Monday.

“We believe that protecting yourself and those around you from COVID-19 and ensuring Saskatchewan can reopen safely are pretty strong incentives for everyone to get vaccinated and that Saskatchewan will reach the 70 per cent vaccination target soon.

“We know there are many people who still want to get vaccinated but haven’t done so yet. This week, the Saskatchewan Health Authority will be releasing more details on bolstering access to first doses through convenient new locations where people work, play and live.”

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Manitoba and Alberta have announced lotteries of their own. The official Opposition thinks incentives like a vaccine lottery should be offered.

“Everyone who doesn’t have their first shot should be getting a phone call from someone who knows how to answer questions, help deal with vaccine hesitancy but also is able to book that appointment right away,” Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said on Monday.

A new report from the Angus Reid Institute found about one in five Saskatchewanians are unwilling or unsure about the vaccine. That’s tied for the highest rate among all provinces, equal with Alberta.

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Anyone older than 40 has been eligible since the end of April, yet uptake for people in their 50s is at 73 per cent and 68 per cent for people in their 40s.

“I don’t think it’s an issue of vaccine hesitancy. I just think it’s more (to do with) summertime,” Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said during a COVID-19 briefing on June 8.

“People are not looking at getting vaccinated and as Dr. (Saqib) Shahab indicated earlier, people are saying, ‘Oh, we’ll get it done next week.’”

Public health experts say while the targets are set for 70 per cent, reaching higher milestones will only help come flu season.

“We are working with 90 per cent of the population who are either ready or may be ready if they’re approached in the right way at the right time by the right people and with the right messaging,” Muhajarine said.

Last week, the health minister said officials could release different protocols for fully vaccinated people linked with a COVID-19 case which could be another incentive to get the shot.

A total of 903,442 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saskatchewan, provincial government officials said on Monday.

The Angus Reid Institute survey results are based on an online survey conducted from June 2 to 7, 2021. The margin of error — which measures sample variability — is +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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With the SPHERU survey, Muhajarine said with an effective sample size of 8,210 Saskatchewan adults, the margin of error is 1.08 plus/minus an estimate of 50 per cent, 19 out of 20 times.

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