A quarter of Kiwis are still uneasy about receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, fresh survey data shows - signalling a big challenge ahead for campaign advocates trying to boost uptake.
But it's also pointed to something they might be able to leverage - our concern for each other.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has indicated a vaccination target of 70 per cent of the population, which experts say would be at the lower end of the threshold to achieve herd immunity against the virus.
Data in the new Massey University study, however, suggests that only 56 per cent of the population would "definitely" take the vaccine, despite data and approvals showing it to be safe and highly effective.
Perhaps just as concerningly, there's been little change since mid-2020 in the 25 per cent of people who feel less inclined to get vaccinated.
The data included a plethora of new insights into why people think it's important they be vaccinated, why some remain uneasy, and how their views have been shaped.
"During our last survey in June-July 2020, there was a lot of uncertainty about Covid-19 vaccines — whether scientists will ever develop one and when it will be approved for public use," Massey communications lecturer Dr Jagadish Thaker said.
"Now, we are more certain about safety, efficacy, and importance of the vaccines, which is already being administered to priority groups in New Zealand."
Yet the latest data - collected from a survey of nearly 1100 people in February and March - showed a "remarkable stability" as one in four Kiwis remained hesitant.
Thaker said this posed a risk to New Zealand's ongoing elimination strategy.
"Some health experts believe that the faster we vaccinate the public, the fewer the chances of new infections, the better we can control the rise of newer variants."
A breakdown showed 12 per cent were "unsure, but leaning towards no", while another 10 per cent answered "no, definitely not" to taking a vaccine.
It also indicated Pasifika and Māori were more likely to refuse the vaccine, compared to Pakeha and Asians.
Elsewhere, the survey showed two thirds said "yes definitely" when asked about accepting a vaccine to protect family, friends and at-risk groups, while about two in 10 said they were "unsure, but leaning towards yes".
"There's also no significant differences between ethnic groups on intention to vaccinate to protect others," Thaker added.
"Scientists and health experts often feel that providing more information about vaccine safety will allay concerns and change the public mind.
"But that does not always work as the public likely has other concerns, sometimes not related to vaccine safety at all."
He said the data suggested that "altruism messages" - telling the public that taking a vaccine would help protect their family, friends, and at-risk groups - was more likely to be more effective across ethnic groups.
"Identifying what motivates the public will help us better communicate our health messages."
The study also highlighted the major problem that was vaccine misinformation, shared on social media and on news sites, which was likely perpetuating hesitancy.
About one in four said they were either much or a little less inclined to get the vaccine, after viewing a widely-circulated misinformation post on social media about safety of the vaccines.
Unfortunately, credible information on social media from official sources didn't appear to cut as far the other way.
When asked to view a "Unite Against COVID" Facebook post about vaccine approval and rollout, only a minority say they are much less (5.4 per cent) or a little less inclined (5 per cent) to get the vaccine.
In other cases, Thaker said news reports about some countries' decisions to briefly suspend roll-outs could have their own impacts.
"We don't know it yet, but news about few governments' withdrawing certain kinds of Covid-19 vaccines may also reinforce public concerns about vaccine side-effects, which may damage public confidence."
Already, the new data showed that, among those more hesitant or sceptical, the need for more vaccine safety data (38 per cent) was the most frequently cited information they needed to change their mind.
About one in three wanted "social proof", or seeing others take the vaccine first, while a quarter wanted more information from the Government - and the same proportion wanted their doctor to tell them vaccine was safe.
The Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine most Kiwis will receive has proven to be 95 per cent effective against symptomatic Covid-19, seven days after receiving two doses.
It's also shown to be safe, having been authorised for use by health safety regulator MedSafe and other major bodies overseas.
While it could cause common side effects, like pain at the injection site, serious reactions were "very rare", the ministry said.
Earlier today, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told RNZ he expected the number of people getting the vaccine would climb steeply over coming weeks.
More than 41,000 New Zealanders have had the vaccine already - 3 per cent shy of the target - and about 50 centres would be up and running by early next week.
The Government aimed to cover the wider population by the end of the year, but that would depend on how quickly people come forward to get vaccinated.
Yesterday, Hipkins told media that some Kiwis would be able to apply to get the vaccine if they were travelling overseas.
But there'd be strict criteria for these for early vaccinations – and only would be granted "for people who need to travel outside of New Zealand on compassionate grounds or for reasons of national significance".
Meanwhile, another just-published study has suggested patients waiting for elective surgery should also get vaccines ahead of the general population - potentially helping to avoid post-operative deaths linked to the virus.