Saskatchewan has the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate and currently the highest COVID-19 death rate of Canada’s provinces. In research published Friday in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers found characteristics including lower education level, financial instability, and Indigenous status were associated with an increased likelihood of vaccine refusal and hesitancy.
The research team also found shared key beliefs among the vaccine hesitant and refusing: that the pandemic is not a big threat to their community, nor to their own health, and that the possibility of spreading the virus to others was not concerning.
“Extra effort must be made to reach the demographic groups that are less likely to seek vaccination on their own,” said USask community health and epidemiology researcher Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine (PhD).
Among those who were vaccinated, or intended to be, what shifted the balance?
“The strongest predictors of intention to get vaccinated were perceiving COVID-19 to be a big threat to their community and concern about spreading the virus to others should they become infected,” said Muhajarine.
The study involved gathering 9,252 responses from May 2020 to April 2021 from adult Saskatchewanians who were part of an online community panel or who had volunteered. The researchers analyzed that data using traditional statistical approaches as well as machine learning computer modelling to understand the relationship between vaccine intention, sociodemographic characteristics, risk exposure behaviours, mitigating factors against COVID-19, and perceptions of the pandemic.
For those hesitating or refusing vaccination, the reasons they cited for their position included that insufficient clinical trials had been conducted to evaluate the vaccines’ safety, a lack of trust in the vaccine approval process, misconceptions/conspiracy theories/misgivings about vaccine safety, medical reasons, and religious grounds.
SINGLE SOURCE, VERBATIM, PHOTO SOURCE: UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN