Government survey: 75 percent of public would take COVID-19 vaccine

An empty Rocca al Mare shopping center after restrictions closed stores on weekends.
An empty Rocca al Mare shopping center after restrictions closed stores on weekends. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The proportion of the public willing to take a coronavirus vaccine were the opportunity to arise has risen to 75 percent, according to a recent government survey, which also found that the proportion of people who would under no circumstances have an inoculation against COVID-19 has dropped to 10 percent, from 16 percent in January.

At the same time, around 3 percent of people who had contracted COVID-19 said they continued to go to their work or study location after being diagnosed.

The survey, conducted by pollsters Turu-uuringute on behalf of the government office, included individuals who have already received at least one coronavirus dose among its respondents, BNS reports.

The figure for those who would take a COVID-19 vaccine has risen from 69 percent in late February, to 71 percent in mid-March, to 75 percent as of present, during which time the number of people vaccinated has in any case continued to rise.

Survey: Close to 20 percent of adults have had vaccine

The survey also reported 20 percent of respondents saying they had received at least one vaccine dose, compared with three percent in a survey in late February. This result tallies with official figures, which, at a little under 215,000 people having received at least one dose as of Saturday morning, constitute around 19 percent of the adult population of Estonia.

Vaike Vainu, survey manager at Turu-uuringute AS, said multiple factors were behind the increase, including both improved public information and the continued rise in coronavirus-related deaths.

Vainu said: "The steep increase in infections and the workload on hospitals, not to mention the increase in the numbers of those who have died as a result of the illness, have highlighted to the public the potentially long-term negative impacts of the virus more clearly."

"Better availability of vaccines and of information related to vaccines, including the current vaccination campaign, are definitely playing a role too," Vainu added.

"The notion is gaining ground that vaccination is the most efficient strategy for returning to normal life," Vainu added.

Focus remains on elderly

Coronavirus vaccines first started appearing in Estonia at Christmas-time, with health-care staff and other front-line workers prioritized. Since then, the emphasis has shifted towards vaccinating the elderly, and also teachers, as well as the political elite.

In the case of the first of these groups, mass vaccinations have started in the capital and elsewhere, with the current target being 75-80 percent coverage of this group (65s and over).

A difference was also found between native Estonian speakers and those of other ethnicities, of whom, according to the survey, 63 percent said they would willingly take the vaccine.

This may be the result of poorer communication in languages other than Estonian, as well as the potential result of misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, or about particular manufacturers' products (notably AstraZeneca) as compared with the Russian Federation's own Sputnik V vaccine, currently not available in Estonia. Soci-economic factors are also likely to play a part.

Government survey: Public less sure on coronavirus support measures

Public opinion on the visibility of state support measures put in place in the teeth of the pandemic is not nearly so favorable, however, with 41 percent of respondents saying they felt sufficiently informed about the measures, with a little more, 46 percent, saying they knew where to obtain information if needed.

Fears of the continued spread of the virus have abated in recent weeks, BNS reports, with the recent survey finding 69 percent of respondents describing the current viral situation as "critical", compared with 81 percent in March.

This has been accompanied by a drop, from 73 to 69 percent of respondents, over the same period, of those who would remark publicly towards another member of the public observed not following COVID-19 restrictions. The PPA was recently tasked with monitoring compliance with regulations, while mall security workers and other paid staff are also required to ensure compliance with, for instance, the responsibility to wear a face-mask in most indoor public places. No requirement has been placed on the public to police COVID-19 restriction compliance.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they observed all restrictions themselves, with 16 percent saying they observed most of them; BNS reports another split based on ethno-linguistic lines, with non-ethnic Estonians (meaning predominantly Russian-speakers) less likely to follow the rules, partly due to fewer people in that demographic working in jobs where remote working is feasible.

Three percent of those confirmed with COVID-19 still going to work, study

The survey also looked at the conduct of those who either contracted COVID-19 or who were close contacts of identified coronavirus-positive people. This was the first time the government-sponsored survey had done so, BNS reports, finding that 74 percent of those who caught COVID-19 self-quarantined immediately.

For close contacts, likely notified via text message from the Health Board, or via the HOIA app if they have it downloaded, the figure was 48 percent.

Nearly a tenth of those knowingly infected by the virus continued to visit essential stores such as groceries or pharmacies (the figure for close contacts was 24 percent).

The figure of those who went to work or study stood at 3 percent among the infected, and 14 percent for close contacts.

The ethno-linguistic split was a reverse of that outlined above, however; 83 percent of non-Estonians said they isolated on being made aware they had picked up the virus, compared with 62 percent of ethnic Estonians.

Mental health issues resulting from lockdown continue, particularly among young

The survey also polled respondents on their mental health during the pandemic, with 30 percent saying they have displayed symptoms of depression or similar, 25 percent that they had anxiety disorder and 49 percent reporting mental exhaustion, with younger age groups particularly susceptible. Schools have been on remote learning off-and-on since March 2020; in the latest round of restrictions announced last month, all schools are on distance learning again.

Finally, 49 percent of respondents said their income had declined over the past two months, up from 42 percent in February, with more ethnic non-Estonians reporting this decline than native Estonian speakers.

The survey was conducted over the period March 26 to 29.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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