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Jakarta Post

Majority of Indonesians unsure about COVID-19 vaccination, survey finds

  • Rizki Fachriansyah
    Rizki Fachriansyah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 23, 2020   /   02:10 pm
Majority of Indonesians unsure about COVID-19 vaccination, survey finds A medical worker at a community health center in Tapos, Depok, West Java, conducts a COVID-19 vaccination simulation on Oct. 21. Depok is expected to be among the regions with the earliest access to the vaccine due to its high levels of COVID-19 transmission. JP/P.J. Leo (JP/P.J. Leo)

The majority of Indonesians are hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine amid persistent concerns over safety and the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines, a survey by Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting (SMRC) finds.

The nationwide survey, conducted between Dec. 16 and 19 and polling 1,202 people, found that only 37 percent of respondents were willing to be inoculated once the coronavirus vaccines became available for public use.

In contrast, 40 percent of respondents were still uncertain about whether to get vaccine injections, while the remaining 17 percent stated their disapproval of the vaccination drive.

SMRC public policy manager Tati Wardi said the percentage of respondents willing to be vaccinated had dipped significantly from that recorded in the previous study.

“According to last week’s survey, those willing to participate in the vaccination drive reached 54 percent, but now the number has dropped to just 37 percent,” she said during an online discussion on Tuesday.

Read also: Expert warns of false narratives hampering COVID-19 vaccination drive

The report also showed that 23 percent of respondents were doubtful of the vaccines’ safety, while 56 percent were convinced that the vaccines would not pose any health hazards. The remaining 20 percent remain undecided on the subject.

Tati said that although the percentage of respondents convinced of the vaccines’ safety was higher than that of respondents holding the opposite view, recent findings indicated a decrease in public trust.

“Our nationwide survey earlier this month shows that public trust in the vaccines reached 66 percent,” she said. “Therefore, the latest number – 56 percent – points to a decrease [in public trust].”

She called on the government to disclose accurate information regarding the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines so as to ensure public trust in the inoculation drive.

An effective public communications strategy on the government’s part is crucial to bolster public understanding of the core benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines, given that social media channels are already rife with unsubstantiated claims against the vaccines, according to Tati.

She added that such a strategy should also entail the constant involvement of health authorities, as the most recent survey revealed that 71.5 percent of respondents viewed doctors as the most trusted sources of information related to pandemic mitigation.

Read also: Only one in three Indonesians willing to pay for vaccine: Survey

A Health Ministry survey earlier this month revealed that only one-third of Indonesians wanting to get COVID-19 shots were willing to pay for a vaccine.

The most common reasons for rejecting COVID-19 vaccination are concerns about safety (30 percent), uncertainty about the effectiveness (22 percent),  lack of trust in the vaccine (13 percent), fear of side effects such as fever and pain (12 percent) and religious beliefs (8 percent).

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo expected the national COVID-19 vaccination program to begin in January 2021, targeting 70 percent of the Indonesian population – or around 182 people. The vaccination of that proportion of the population would, it is believed, ensure herd immunity.

The President reasserted that any future vaccine would be approved by the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) and would be declared halal by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). Vaccination, he said, would be free for all Indonesians.

Responding to the SMRC’s latest survey, Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology head Amin Soebandrio said the government still had a long way to go before it could ensure herd immunity, as a significant portion of the public remain unconvinced of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airlangga University epidemiologist Windhu Purnomo urged the government to improve the mitigation momentum as the vaccination program was not likely to reach the percentage required for herd immunity until April 2022 at the earliest.

“Vaccination is only one part of pandemic mitigation strategy,” he said.

“The main strategy is case finding, which entails massive testing and tracing to detect and isolate as many cases as possible to break the chain of infection.”