Monday, July 4, 2022

Why some parents are in no rush to get their kids jabbed

With hundreds of thousands of appointments skipped since the start of the vaccination drive for children last month, a psychologist says the voluntary nature of the approach might be one of the factors.

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While the government has said that Covid-19 vaccination for children below the age of 12 is not compulsory, the voluntary approach adopted in lieu of such a directive may be part of the reason many parents have decided to give the shot a miss despite receiving an appointment under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme for Children (PICKids).

Psychologist Fauziah Sa’ad said the flexibility given had caused many parents to adopt a wait-and-see approach, wanting to find out more about the effects of the vaccine, particularly over the long term, before allowing their children to get jabbed.

Fauziah, of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, said this was in contrast to the conditions set for adults, who are required to receive the full regimen laid out by the health ministry before they are allowed to participate in public activities.

“Because it is not compulsory, parents might feel that there is no need to rush into getting their children vaccinated,” she said.

“There are also some who believe that their children already have the antibody levels needed to fight off the Covid-19 virus, and do not need additional protection.”

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin recently revealed that more than 600,000 children given appointments through PICKids were no-shows on the day itself.

Of the 1.63 million appointments given by the health ministry since Feb 3, he said, only a million had turned up.

Under PICKids, children were initially given only the Pfizer vaccine. The Sinovac jab was added to the list a month later, on March 3, although the health ministry stressed that Pfizer remained the vaccine of choice for children in this age group.

Khairy said the health ministry would continue its campaigns to spread awareness about the benefits of vaccination as part of efforts to convince parents to get their children jabbed.

In his latest update on related developments, he said that more than 100,000 children below 12 had contracted the virus so far this year.

Fauziah also pointed to the spread of fake news on social media, saying false or misleading information about the vaccines had the biggest impact on parents who had little knowledge about the jabs to begin with.

Viewing the vaccines through such a negative lens, she said, they would be reluctant to let their children be jabbed.

Checks by MalaysiaNow of social media platforms like Facebook found that each statement issued by the health ministry would be met with disparaging comments and accusations.

Other users would share videos with worrying content, such as clips showing a person fainting, and claim that vaccines were to blame despite strong denials by the health ministry.

A 33-year-old woman who asked that her name be withheld said she was worried about sending her child for vaccination even though he began attending primary school this year.

She herself has been fully vaccinated and recently received a booster dose as well. But she is concerned about the effects the vaccine might have on her son, who just turned seven years old.

“There’s just too much information on social media about how the vaccine is supposedly unsafe for children,” she told MalaysiaNow.

“Eventually, such things made me sceptical as well.”

Nevertheless, she said her family members had assured her that the vaccine was safe for children, and that the side effects were not as severe as claimed on social media.

“I will send my son to be vaccinated once he receives an appointment through MySejahtera,” she added.

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