60% of Singapore residents polled still uncertain about taking up Covid-19 vaccination

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Covid-19 vaccinations may be underway in Singapore, but many residents, it appears, are still hesitant in taking it up over fears about its efficacy and potential side effects.

That is according to an informal survey AsiaOne conducted with more than 120 participants aged between 16 and 70.

The poll, conducted between Jan 21 and 23, measured respondents' willingness to take the vaccine if it was readily available at the present moment. 

The results showed that about 60 per cent of people are still hesitant or unwilling to go for the Covid-19 vaccine. A majority of the respondents (52.3 per cent) were in their 30s.

About 24 per cent of respondents were in their 40s and 50s, with 14 per cent in their 20s. The rest (9 per cent) were made up of seniors above 60 or those below the age of 20.

In total, 25.8 per cent of participants said they would not choose to take the vaccine at this time, while 35.9 per cent were still undecided. 36.7 per cent were ready to take the shot.

Reasons for getting vaccinated

Among those who would want to get vaccinated right now, many still expressed reservations, according to AsiaOne's survey. Some view getting the vaccine as the "responsible thing to do", and to protect themselves and their family. Several respondents also see it as a way to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

One respondent, healthcare marketer Liu Kuan Hung, 33, said that he would take it despite his concerns because the "benefits outweigh the risks".

The sentiment is echoed by laboratory manager Vanessa Tay, 34. "Immunisation is really important, not just for ourselves but also to help those who cannot take the vaccine and, even worse, if they are considered high-risk," said Tay.

"It is also crucial if we want to open borders or travel because we will not know who has it and who doesn't."

Vaccine hesitancy

Concerns over the Covid-19 vaccine's side effects and efficacy are a major reason behind people's hesitancy in taking it up, according to AsiaOne's survey.

A majority (56.8 per cent) of respondents said they were "very concerned" over possible side effects from the vaccine, while close to half (47.5 per cent) were "slightly concerned" over its efficacy.

One worry, said logistics manager Randy Tan, 44, who would skip the vaccine, is that it may cause one to "develop other complications". Similarly, program manager Genin Koh, 29, said "there are still a lot of unknowns about Covid-19" and "there seems to be no credible testing yet".

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Some respondents who are planning to have children stated that they are hesitant to take the vaccine because they are unsure of its impact on fertility and family planning.

Ironically, another reason for people's hesitancy towards the vaccine is how well Singapore has done so far in keeping the virus under control. There had been no community cases for a period in December and January, with current daily local cases in the low single digits.

And it's not just the regular folk. Uncertainty over taking up the vaccine has been registered even among healthcare professionals and frontline personnel, reported South China Morning Post.

In one example the publication cited, just half of Singapore Airlines' employees who are eligible for the vaccine signed up to get inoculated.

This indecision was marked in AsiaOne's survey as well. 

Several respondents shared that they wanted to observe the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine's effects on a wider scale before signing up.

One of those still sitting on the fence is hawker Kyle Lim, 25. While he's "pretty sure the vaccine works", he added that he "would like to see if there are any unknown problems that might arise".

Even those who said they are not at all concerned about the efficacy or side effects of the vaccine, like entrepreneur Josh, 37, would still rather wait it out "for more of a choice" in vaccines.

But he added: "If the government says we must all take it for things to return to normal again, I'll take it tomorrow."

Don't wait and see: Ministers

Another survey by online analytics firm YouGov released earlier this month had found that 47 per cent of the roughly 1,000 Singaporeans polled were most likely to take a Covid-19 vaccine, while 34 per cent were undecided and 19 per cent unlikely to do so.

The result placed Singapore at 18 out of the 24 countries in terms of "vaccine willingness", which measures how well a population accepts a vaccine.

Government ministers have warned that a "wait and see" approach may backfire.

Lawrence Wong, the co-chair of the multi-ministerial task force tackling the pandemic, stated on Tuesday (Jan 19) that the Covid-19 vaccine would not be reserved for those who chose not to take it at this time.

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"If you want to wait, you must accept the consequence that perhaps if you wait... and you want to take it up later on, we may not have a ready supply," said the Education Minister.

He and Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong, the other co-chair of the task force, were speaking at a press conference to mark one year of Singapore's battle with Covid-19.

Added Gan: "We are not going to reserve some for you if you decide not to be vaccinated."

To encourage more people to get the vaccine, officials will be going door to door to help people make online bookings for their jabs, he said.

More than 60,000 vaccinated

Over 60,000 people in Singapore have so far been vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, including frontline workers and ministers.

In the latest update, Gan said that Singapore would begin Covid-19 vaccination for seniors aged 70 and above from Wednesday (Jan 27).

In the coming months, the government has plans for more than 30 vaccination centres to be set up, which can cater to at least 2,000 people a day.

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is the only one approved here to date. Other vaccines from American biotechnology firm Moderna and China's Sinovac are expected to arrive soon, with the latter yet to be approved.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

candicecai@asiaone.com