People who inject drugs may be at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission and more severe negative health outcomes following COVID-19 infection. Early research on hypothetical COVID-19 vaccines suggests this population may be less likely to accept vaccination. This commentary extends this research by presenting vaccine intention data from Illicit Drug Reporting System interviews conducted in June-July 2021, in the early stages of vaccine rollout, with people in Australia who inject drugs (N = 888). Half the sample (48%, n = 419) reported that they were hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with key barriers relating to vaccine safety and side effect concerns. This level of hesitancy is substantially higher than that of the general population at a similar time. While we note that the subsequent Delta variant-driven third wave of cases in Australia and efforts to increase population vaccination coverage may have altered intent in this group, this level of hesitancy warrants a targeted strategy to mitigate vaccine-related concerns and maximise uptake. Ideally, this should comprise an inclusive health response that is peer-led, with peer-based organisations ideally positioned to direct immunisation service delivery and provide vaccine-related messaging.
Keywords: COVID-19; people who inject drugs; vaccination barriers; vaccine hesitancy.
© 2022 The Authors. Drug and Alcohol Review published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs.