The Health October 2021 | Page 11

| Cover Story |



Hesitancy an old phenomenon

THE WORLD HEALTH Organisation ( WHO ) defines vaccine hesitancy as a delay in accepting or refusing vaccines despite their availability .
“ People hesitated even though vaccines were available . Confidence , complacency , and convenience were influencing factors ,” explained Associate Professor Dr Mohd Dzulkhairi Mohd Rani of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences from Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia ( USIM ).
“ Vaccine hesitancy is an old phenomenon . It has always been around even with the childhood immunisation programme , not just the Covid-19 vaccine .” Based on a ‘ Knowledge , acceptance and perception on Covid-19 vaccine among Malaysians : A web-based survey ’ report by Dr Dzulkhairi and his research team , there were several reasons for the hesitancy . From the first survey conducted in December 2020 , one of the main reasons was the fear and doubt of the safety and effectiveness of the rapidly developed Covid-19 vaccines .
Other common concerns
“ Before the vaccine roll-out , respondents who disagreed with being vaccinated stated they were not ready yet . There was limited clinical data initially . They wanted more information , more studies to be done and wanted to see the effectiveness of the vaccine .”
There was also concern about side effects such as infertility , altering DNA , death , or other future unknown results .
“ Some of the respondents even suggested politicians and frontliners should be vaccinated first . They wanted to see if there were adverse effects of the vaccines before deciding .
“ This was , however , addressed when then Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin became the first to receive the shot followed by Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah .”
Dr Dzulkhairi also noted a significant number of Muslim respondents said they were doubtful of the vaccine ’ s halal status and the contents of the vaccines .
Vaccine hesitancy reasons
1 . Lack of information 2 . New vaccine 3 . Limited clinical trial data 4 . Worry of side effects 5 . Fear of long term side effect 6 . Effectiveness query
7 . Halal status and content of vaccines is in doubt
8 . Disbelief vaccine country of origin and producer
9 . Vulnerable and co-morbid group 10 . Wait and see 11 . Self-immunity 12 . Disbelief in the use of the vaccine
13 . Hidden agenda and conspiracy theory
14 . Politicians first
“ There was also distrust of the vaccine ’ s country of origin and producer , particularly China , where the virus originated .”
Some were distrustful of the vaccine itself and were keener on developing self-immunity .
Other reasons for vaccine hesitancy included government and political conspiracy theories and illuminati agenda .
Based on the preliminary analysis of the third study , the acceptance rate was more than 90 per cent .
“ Most of the respondents of the third survey had either been fully vaccinated , partially vaccinated or had registered for vaccination .”
According to Dr Dzulkhairi , the knowledge and acceptance of the Covid-19 vaccine are also attributable to sociodemographic factors .
“ The surveys show that the 20 to 30-year-old age-group have the most knowledge and acceptance . Meanwhile , the 40 to 50-year-old age group had the least knowledge and were doubtful of the vaccine , resulting in less acceptance .”
The report states the knowledge about vaccines was relatively poor , particularly among those with low education levels , low income and not living with high-risk groups .
The acceptability rate was also significantly low among males , those with chronic diseases and low income . Those with a bachelor ’ s degree and higher were associated with better acceptance towards the Covid-19 vaccine .
Changing perception
Dr Dzulkhairi explained acceptance increased as perception towards the vaccine changed over time .
“ Apart from knowledge , perception also shifts according to experience . It could be their own experience or someone else ’ s experience of getting infected with the Covid-19 virus .
“ Experiencing and understanding the risk of getting infected as well as the difference in severity between those who are vaccinated and those who were not vaccinated showed the importance of the vaccine .”
He commented that the number of anti-vaxxers is much lower than the millions of Malaysians vaccinated under the NIP .
“ I hope the anti-vaxxers will change their perception and get themselves vaccinated .
“ For safety and protection , businesses and premises now only allow individuals with risk-free and fully vaccinated status in MySejahtera to enter . It is also the case for those who wish to travel abroad .”
He believes that as the country starts entering the endemic phase and transit out of the National Recovery Plan , the remaining sceptics will eventually change their perception and get themselves vaccinated to participate in social activities . — The Health