Of Vaccine Hesitance, Overconfidence and Inaccessibility

By Michelle Ng

Hi Subang Jaya – I hope all of you are keeping well.

I thought of sharing with you matters relating to the Covid-19 vaccine from our point of view, and how the dynamics is shifting such that the extremes are beginning to show.

Let’s start with inaccessibility. Over the course of the last month, my office organised a program to administer both the first and second dose of Sinovac vaccines for Subang residents under Selangor’s SelVAX programme in De Palma Hotel.

It was an eye-opening experience for us – a large percentage of those who came forward were undocumented foreigners. On the first day, we vaccinated a total of about 900 people. On the second day, we saw double the response with 1800 coming forward. We then learnt that some communities from the undocumented group chose to send one or two people on the first day to test the waters and in particular, to determine whether we’d grant them safe passage. This is why we saw an influx on the second day.

Community leaders have informed me since that even more have come forward. But with Vaccine Centres closing down – many in this category are left unvaccinated. This is bad, timing wise, as it takes time to build such confidence.

For this reason, I am pushing for mobile vaccination to be implemented in Selangor, and have gone the extra mile to assist the Exco of Health to look for bus operators that are willing to convert their vehicles for this purpose. In bringing vaccines to these marginalised communities, I hope that we would be able to bring the number of Covid cases in Selangor further down, especially with regards to Brought in Dead. I am confident that this programme will start soon.

While we deal with inaccessibility, we have, on the other hand, groups that are vaccine hesitant. Of late, the news highlighted how royalty held an audience with unvaccinated groups, that lawyers are being engaged to represent unvaccinated groups on grounds that current SOPs discriminate against them, even religious and community leaders have whispered to me of cases on the ground.

The reasons presented by this group are two-fold: one, that they are unsure about the vaccine; two, that it is their right to refuse.

As to the first reason, I think it is incumbent upon all of us to have conversations with friends and family who still harbour such fear. I have also assisted residents to have such conversations and my door remains open to anyone who need my help for this purpose.

The second reason proffered to reject the vaccine is what I am most concerned with, and certainly not an easy topic to deal with, as it boils down to personal right verses community good. In my view, it is alright if the exercise of a personal right remains as such, and it does not harm another – refusing to read non-fiction books, for example. But here, the exercise of a personal right may cause harm to the other. While I cannot force anyone who is vaccine hesitant to take the shot, I can only pray that you reconsider, as this will affect your safety, the safety of the people you live with, and those in your community.

I have spent some time setting out the scene to address the last group, who appear to be overconfident. Just this morning I saw news of a group of young people partaking in contact sports. Community leaders also sent me messages to inform that they have spotted people not wearing masks whilst working.

I hope the points made above of vaccine inaccessibility and hesitance demonstrates that there are people around us who have not been vaccinated. And until they are, we must still take the necessary precaution by wearing masks, observing hand hygiene and physical distancing. We are not out of the woods yet, especially given the Delta variant that is now in Selangor.

Be that as it may, do not be disheartened – there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have received reports that hospitals are slowly relieved. From days where there weren’t enough seats, so much so that patients had to sit or lie on the floor, you can at least now see the floor.

Hang in there, Subang Jaya. We will get through this. As usual, my office remains contactable if any of you are in need.


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