COVID-19 vaccine: to take or not to take?
Since late December last year, Singapore has been administering COVID-19 vaccines progressively to our frontline and healthcare workers and more vulnerable citizens like the elderly. As of 15 March 2021, a total of 549,254 Singaporeans have taken their first dosage of the vaccine, of which 243,169 of them have completed the full vaccination regimen. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are the only two authorised for use locally by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), but a review of the Sinovac vaccine is underway. HSA is also in talks with other companies regarding further evaluation of available vaccines, such as the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory in Singapore, but it is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents. Despite this accessibility and the number of people that have already been vaccinated, many doubts about the potential side effects and the efficacy of the vaccine remains.
What we want to know is, when your turn comes around, would you take the COVID-19 vaccine?
To find out, a team of local influencers, Joel Tan, Narelle Kheng, Farisha Ishak and Isaac Ong, conducted an OPPi crowdsourcing campaign and posed this question to 325 of their followers. With the results, they discussed the topic in the second episode of the limited video series I Have a Question (you can catch the episode here!).
Interestingly, the statement that garnered the most support from respondents in this poll is that more information about the vaccine should be made accessible and available, with 296 respondents agreeing with this.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have had widespread coverage in the news, with its side effects and efficacy rates reported on extensively. So why then did so many of our respondents strongly agree on the need for more information?
In I Have a Question, guest speaker Dr Janil Puthucheary suggests that rather than detailed scientific information, perhaps people want to hear more about the lived experiences of friends and family that have gotten the vaccine. This echoes some of the sentiments shared by our respondents—some felt like there should be more publicity regarding side effects from people that have already been vaccinated, while others requested more detailed breakdowns and comparison tables on the efficacy of the vaccine in different ethnic groups. On the other hand, a number of respondents felt that there’s already a wide trove of information available, so the onus is now on us to inform ourselves before choosing to get vaccinated.
In the same vein, when respondents were asked if they have kept themselves informed and up to date about the vaccine, 235 of them said yes. Some admitted that they’ve only taken note of key headlines and brief details like the efficacy rates and types of vaccines available, while others mentioned that the waves of personal opinions regarding the vaccine online make it hard to sieve out actual facts.
One of the biggest concerns raised about the COVID-19 vaccine is that it’s still very new, having been manufactured and distributed very hurriedly, and despite rigorous testing, longer-term side-effects are still unknown. Among our respondents, about 65% of them are worried about the side effects of the vaccine. It’s no surprise then, that respondents were left divided on whether or not the vaccine should be made mandatory. To this, 27% of respondents feel that it should be mandatory, 50% feel that it shouldn’t, and 23% were on the fence.
There’s no pleasing everyone when things are made compulsory, especially when our health and wellbeing is concerned. Respondents against mandating vaccination felt that the government would be overstepping their boundaries by doing so. They also thought that if the vaccine were to result in severe long-term side-effects, the responsibility would be a lot to shoulder for both themselves and the government. Some also felt that taking this choice away from Singaporeans would result in a lot of conflict and backlash against the government.
On the other hand, some thought that the vaccine should be made compulsory for individuals at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 like the elderly, or for persons who have had no adverse medical reactions to vaccines in general. Others felt that it should only be made compulsory if the pandemic spirals out of control again. A number of respondents also felt strongly about mandating vaccination for the greater good of society.
On that note, 78% of respondents agreed that getting the vaccine is being socially responsible, but a number of them also felt that personally, there is no need or desire for them to get vaccinated. Of this group of respondents, many of them feel that given the general stabilisation of the spread of the pandemic locally, there isn’t really a need or an incentive for them to get vaccinated. Some mentioned that they would be more inclined to take it when borders open for travel again, while others maintained that if the majority of the population gets vaccinated, there is no need for them to get it as well.
Ultimately, it’s no denying that we all have a social responsibility to get vaccinated not just for us, but for the people around us who are immunocompromised or who are unable to get vaccinated because of pre-existing allergies or medical conditions, but this is not the only solution. Adhering to safe distancing measures, wearing a mask in public and staying clean and hygienic are but some of the many other ways in which we can remain socially responsible even without getting vaccinated.
At the end of the day, what matters most is that we are able to make an informed decision according to what’s best for us. Whether or not you’ve made this decision, join our community group on Facebook and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear what you have to say.
P.S. Dr Janil Puthucheary shares some great insights and addresses some of the common fears surrounding the vaccine, so do be sure to catch I Have a Question here!