Understanding vaccine hesitancy, considering the target region and phase, is an urgent issue to quell the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. This study aimed to monitor COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the Japanese population during the three phases of vaccine approval and introduction, and evaluate the association of vaccine hesitancy with vaccine confidence and literacy. We conducted web-based cross-sectional surveys during the three phases of COVID-19 vaccine introduction: January 2021, before approval; June, start of vaccination of the elderly; and September, when about 70% of the target population was vaccinated with at least one dose. There were 7210 participants, aged 20−80 years. We evaluated the association of vaccine hesitancy with vaccine confidence and literacy in the three phases using multivariate logistic regression analysis. The proportion of hesitancy in January, June, and September was 17.5%, 65.3%, and 19.4%, respectively. In any phase, lower vaccine confidence and literacy showed a higher adjusted odds ratio (AOR) of vaccine hesitancy in most items (AOR > 1, p < 0.001). Vaccine hesitancy in June had a different trend in perception of COVID-19 compared to that in the January and September surveys. The findings suggested that hesitancy increases transiently during vaccination introduction phases, and changes as the vaccination program progressed or waves of epidemic. Careful risk communication to increase vaccine confidence and literacy is essential to reduce vaccine hesitancy, especially in the introduction phase.
Keywords: hesitancy; phases of COVID-19 vaccine introduction; risk communication; vaccine; vaccine confidence; vaccine literacy.