LAHORE – Higher percentage of population in Pakistan is not ready to get COVID-19 vaccine, reveals a poll conducted by the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Institute in seven countries in March 2021.
About 42 per cent of the polled people in Pakistan are reluctant to get vaccine mainly due to fear of side effects and misleading information circulating on social media.
For successful mass vaccination, as per the experts, the authorities need to address public concerns, lack of information and misinformation through reliable means like healthcare providers and patients who recovered after serious illness.
As much as 18pc of respondents in seven countries (Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Mongolia) are not concerned about falling seriously ill and are ,therefore, not very much inclined to get vaccinated.
Internet and social media users are significantly less inclined to get vaccinated than users of other channels of information.
This shows the importance of countering false information circulating in social media.
At the same time, most people in most countries – including youth from 18 to 29 years old – look for information on TV, not on social media.
The second most important source is relatives, friends, colleagues.
Healthcare providers are the most trusted source of medical advice.
A patient who experienced the disease in a serious form demonstrates more pro-vaccination attitude, the study showed.
Responding to the questionnaire send through e mail, CAREC Institute Chief Economist Dr Hans Holzhacker stated there are big differences in the readiness to get vaccinated in different countries.
“In Mongolia 87pc want to go for it, in Kazakhstan only 28pc, whereas 72pc would not.
In Pakistan 35pc of respondents “definitely” intend to be vaccinated, 20pc “rather”, whereas 10pc “rather not”, and again 35pc “definitely not.”
These differences are related to recent information flows in these countries as well as to their history, culture, and other more fundamental characteristics”, he stated, adding, there are several other differences, for example, sources of information.
“In Georgia, even among youth, 55pc of respondents get their information on COVID-19 from TV, whereas in Uzbekistan only 20pc get it from TV as compared with 55pc who get it from relatives and friends.
In Pakistan, there is also less trust in TV as compared with other CAREC countries polled: only 44pc of youth get their information from TV in Pakistan, 52pc get it from relatives and friends.
Pakistan is also a bit different with regard to whom to trust for information: 11pc say they trust religious mentors most. In other countries this percentage is much lower”, he said.
Despite differences, all are scared about side effects, all trust mostly doctors and nurses for medical information, all want to protect their families, he said.
He suggested addressing concerns about side effects and counter fake and conspiracy stories.
“Show the seriousness of the disease, let patients who had serious forms of the disease share their experience.
Use predominantly the family protection argument”, he said.
Dr Hans Holzhacker, author of a number of economic briefs including the one covering impact of COVID-19 on CAREC economies, said that things have dramatically changed after COVID-19.
Successful vaccination is the only way to avoid repeated lockdowns with highly adverse economic consequences over and over again.
However, vaccinations will probably have to be repeated for many years to come, he added.
“This virus has become endemic, and it is mutating. We will have to live with continuing vaccination needs. Therefore, vaccination attitudes do not only impact the economy now, but will do so for a long time. I hope for the best for economic recovery, but forecasts have seldom been so uncertain. It really depends on the pandemic”, he said while fearing a K-shaped recovery.
“Rich countries and rich parts of the society will be much better off because they have better access to vaccines, they are less exposed to risky jobs, and have more means to bridge economic losses. Those who are not in such a position will continue to suffer both in health and in economic terms”, he said while stressing the need for strong efforts from the international community and from governments to avoid such a scenario.