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COVID-19 vaccine hoaxes could impact other immunization programs

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2020

Jakarta – An expert has expressed his concerns over public resistance to a future COVID-19 immunization program caused by hoaxes surrounding the vaccines being developed.

The opposition could have a knock-on effect on other immunization programs in the country.

Vaccinologist and internist Dirga Sakti Rambe believes hoaxes surrounding a COVID-19 vaccine and immunization in general to be dangerous. He said that even without hoaxes, public acceptance of the potential coronavirus vaccine was already low.

According to Dirga's own records based on several surveys, only 50 to 60 percent of the population in Indonesia would accept the vaccine.

He went on to say that the worst effect from the COVID-19 vaccine hoaxes was the problems it caused for other immunization programs, apart from the coronavirus, in the country.

"If the public believe the hoaxes, their level of trust in other vaccines, including in regular immunization programs, will also drop. It will be dangerous. The regular immunization programs that have been going on for decades could be affected," said Dirga on Sunday as quoted by kompas.id.

Separately, pediatrician Alvi Lavina said that the possible low participation in COVID-19 immunization could add more obstacles to running the regular vaccinations for children, which already faced a slump in participation during the pandemic over fears of being infected with the coronavirus.

"Since March the participation level for basic immunizations has seen a drop of 4.9 percent as compared with the same period in 2019. The drop reached its peak in May, at 34.5 percent, as compared with last year," said Alvi.

Previously, according to an online survey conducted by volunteer group LaporCOVID-19 in September and October, only 31 percent of a total of 2,109 respondents said they would accept a vaccine developed by Sinovac and Bio Farma, while 44 percent said they were willing to receive the locally made and under-development Merah Putih vaccine.

"Most respondents, however, said that they were between doubtful and outright refusing to receive the vaccine," said Irma Hidayana, the public health researcher of LaporCOVID-19, on Oct. 13.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) deplored many hoaxes surrounding COVID-19, ranging from a false belief that the virus was non-existent to false information on vaccines.

"There are beliefs in the public that are based on hoaxes," said IDI chairman Daeng M. Faqih as quoted by kompas.com on Oct. 12. "We still see the public sharing false information [on COVID-19] that only causes anxiety and distrust toward vaccination, which is really dangerous."

In the meantime, scholars from the University of Indonesia (UI) have revealed that some Greater Jakarta residents still believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is "a conspiracy formulated by the global elites".

The scholars, who are members of the Cluster Innovation and Governance (CIGO) Research Team, collaborated with the Tanoto Foundation for a survey to study how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the public in terms of their stance toward the economic recession, as well as their buying habits throughout the health crisis.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 14 to 30 with 772 respondents from Greater Jakarta.

UI spokeswoman Amelita Luisa said the results showed that 21 percent of the respondents, 150 people, believed that COVID-19 was a conspiracy created by members of the global elite. (nkn)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/12/07/covid-19-vaccine-hoaxes-could-impact-other-immunization-programs.htm