20% of Israelis would not take a COVID-19 vaccine - new survey

"The results of the survey are important but at the same time disturbing," said Prof. Shuki Shemer.

A volunteer receives an injection in a human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO)
A volunteer receives an injection in a human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO)
Nearly a quarter of Israelis would not take a coronavirus vaccine if it was approved for use, a new survey has found.
The survey, conducted by Assuta Medical Centers in conjunction with Midgam, found that while about 75% of Israelis said they “think” or are “sure” they would take such a vaccine, 20% said they don’t think so or are sure they would not. Another 6% said they don’t know.
“The results of the survey are important but at the same time disturbing,” Assuta Medical Centers chairman Prof. Shuki Shemer said in a statement.
A Gallup poll released last month in the United States found that 35% of Americans would not get a free, Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine if it was ready today.
The Israeli survey of 505 people was administered August 17-18 and included a representative sample of the adult population.
Men were found to be more inclined to get vaccinated against coronavirus than women: 89.1% versus 68.7%. More men experience adverse effects from the virus. A higher percentage of Israeli men have died from COVID-19 than women, the Health Ministry reported last week.
In the US, the same percentage of men and women, 65%, said they would be willing to be vaccinated, the Gallup poll showed.
Jews were more likely than Arabs to agree to take the vaccine: 75% versus 70%, the report said. Among Jews, haredim (ultra-Orthodox) were the least likely to be vaccinated: 64.1% said they would be vaccinated, versus 76.3% to 79.8% for secular, traditional and the modern-Orthodox.
Haredim have been among those most stricken by COVID-19. According to coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu, about 22% of all sick patients are from the haredi sector. Haredim make up 12% of the population, according to a 2019 report by the Israel Democracy Institute. Their infection rate is almost twice as high as that of the general population.
Jews between the ages of 25 and 44 were less likely to say they would take the vaccine, 70.3% versus more than 73% in all other age groups.
THE STUDY found a direct correlation between those who took the flu vaccine in the past and those who would be willing to vaccinate against coronavirus. Some 87% of those who were vaccinated against seasonal flu in previous years said they would take the vaccine, versus 59% who had not been vaccinated against flu.
“Comprehensive national advocacy must now be launched to vaccinate against influenza, especially in populations of adults, children and those with increased medical risk,” Shemer said. “The emphasis must be on presenting differently to different population sectors: ultra-Orthodox, Arabs, women and men.”
This will be important in the context of the health system’s ability to handle an expected wave of patients in the winter months and to significantly reduce morbidity, he said.
The survey found that 56% of people were planning to vaccinate against the flu this year.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has maintained that a vaccine will be ready by early 2021. Israel has signed on to be among the first recipients of two US vaccines, one being developed by Moderna, Inc., and the other by Arcturus.
Israel’s Institute for Biological Research is also working on its own vaccine candidate. Human testing for that vaccine is supposed to start this October.
In April, a similar poll was taken by Galilee Medical Center together with Bar-Ilan University’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine and Tel Aviv University. It was published in late July. It found that vaccine hesitancy remains a barrier to full population inoculation against the novel coronavirus.
That survey also found that 61% of nurses and 78% of doctors say they would be willing to get vaccinated, with safety being the biggest concern.
The survey did find that medical teams in COVID-19 departments show higher acceptance rates (94%) compared with those in non-COVID-19 departments.