New Straits Times

When it comes to vaccines, it’s about doing the right thing and doing things right

- The writer, a former NST journalist, is a film scriptwrit­er whose penchant is finding new food haunts

herd immunity against Covid-19 is crucial as health experts have been emphasisin­g that 70 to 80 per cent of the country’s population must be inoculated.

As much as we all agree that it is vital to achieve herd immunity against this deadly virus, there are some concerns about the attitudes to Covid-19 vaccines.

A survey by Global Web Index, a London-based audience-targeting company that provides insights to media agencies across the globe, found that there are mixed attitudes to the vaccines in countries surveyed, including the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, India, Japan and Italy.

The survey found that one-third of the global population have major concerns.

Using survey data from these eight countries, Global Web Index created five archetypes to illustrate how attitudes to vaccines differ depending on age, income, lifestyle and values.

The first group, known as the Vaccine Supporter, makes up 66 per cent of all participan­ts surveyed.

This group, comprising younger people aged 18 to 34 who are working profession­als, earn a high income and live in a city, supports vaccinatio­n.

Still, one-third of vaccine supporters say they will wait to get the jab due to lingering concerns about vaccine distributi­on and potential side effects.

The second group, the Vaccine Hesitant, more common among cautious suburban parents, makes up 12 per cent of participan­ts. This group is more likely female and anxious about the length of time spent testing vaccines and they would like more transparen­cy around the science.

“With that being said, this group could be easily swayed, as they are more receptive to word-of-mouth and messaging boards to get advice from their peers over any other medium,” the survey said.

The third archetype is Vaccine Obligated, which comprises people who will only get vaccinated if it’s necessary for work, travel and school, making up 11 per cent of participan­ts. This group skews male, age 16 to 24.

While this group is also concerned about potential side effects, their belief that a vaccine may not be necessary to combat Covid-19 was above average compared with other segments of participan­ts in the study.

Then we have the Vaccine Sceptical group, comprising people who will not get the vaccine. This group makes up 11 per cent of participan­ts and skews female, age 45 to 64. This group earns lower than the average income, is less likely to have a college degree and live in rural areas.

Besides worries about potential side effects, this group is generally more pessimisti­c about the chances of containing the pandemic at all and does not believe the vaccine will help tackle the global health crisis.

Finally, we have the group called the Anti-Vaxxers, who will not get the vaccine because they are against vaccines in general. Anti-Vaxxers are a sub-segment of the Vaccine Sceptical group that makes up 1.4 per cent of the study’s participan­ts.

It is important to note that those who choose not to get the vaccine should not be confused with anti-vaxxers, as the latter do not believe in getting any vaccine due to safety concerns, not just the vaccine for Covid-19.

According to the study, antivaxxer­s tend to fall into one of two age brackets, 16 to 24 years old and 55 to 64 years old, typically men with lower income.

The study shows that broad segments of society, regardless of their demographi­c or views, are at least somewhat concerned about Covid-19 vaccines.

While scientists are not quite sure if the current vaccines on the market can stop infections or transmissi­on of the virus, they are an important part of our global defence against Covid-19, along with other safety restrictio­ns, like wearing masks and keeping a distance.

There may be similar results if we were to carry out a survey here. The vaccines are already here for the national immunisati­on rollout. As we cannot afford to carry out a nationwide survey due to time constraint­s, it is crucial for the government to continue engaging key opinion leaders, like the Muslim Consumers Associatio­n of Malaysia, which is still adamant about ensuring the safety of the vaccines.

Sometimes we cannot please everyone. There is always a dichotomy between believing in science and justifying a conjecture, whether on moral or religious grounds. For many, it is about doing the right thing and doing things right.

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