'Government should tell us the facts about the effects and benefits rather than forcing people to get vaccine'
NOOSA - Public health experts agree that widespread vaccination coverage together with mask-wearing, distancing and some other protocols are the best way to end pandemics.
While vaccination is not the only protection, it is a vital component of keeping the disease under control.
To this end, PNG’s National Research Institute has been investigating the willingness of workers in the country to have the vaccine administered.
Covid has been circulating since March 2020 and vaccinations have been available since March 2021, yet less than 3% of the population has been fully vaccinated
Health authorities say that they’re receiving reports of 30 new infections on average each day, 6% of the peak of October last year.
Overall, so far there have been 44,700 infections and 651 coronavirus-related deaths.
This compares with worse situations in Australia (26,500 cases a day) and New Zealand (6,800 cases a day), both of which are at one-third of their peaks late last year, and where the disease is running out of control.
PNG decided to try to improve vaccination rates by encouraging businesses to roll out vaccinations to workers.
As a result a ‘no jab, no job’ policy has been adopted by many PNG employers, and workers put under pressure to choose between getting vaccinated or losing their jobs if they declined.
Researchers Francis Odhuno, Dianah Ngui and Joseph Muniu embarked on a project to estimate the willingness of wholesale and retail workers in Port Moresby to be vaccinated.
They found that 61% of the 1,265 workers interviewed would not willingly be vaccinated even if they faced being fired.
“I think government should tell us the facts about the effects and benefits of it rather than forcing people to get vaccine which is not right,” said one worker.
While another said: “I did not want to resign and stay home because city life is very hard. So, I got vaccinated in order to continue with my job to live in the city”.
Factors influencing workers’ willingness to be vaccinated included access to information, education and income levels, the perceived threat of infection and their underlying medical conditions.
Information cropped up as a major factor in many other interviews.
“I want correct information first, then I will get vaccinated,” one worker said. “Otherwise I’m going to resign and go home.”
“I am afraid of Covid,” said another, “but as for me and my family, we decided not to get those doses because it's new to us or our country. We will wait for clear information.”
In PNG as in many other countries social media is seen as a platform used for untrusted messages.
The report’s authors concluded that a public awareness campaign had been necessary long before the vaccines became available and that the government needed to partner with trusted institutions like the churches in such a campaign.
But this did not happen.
So in PNG the virus continues to spread, although at a reportedly low level.
But in Australia and New Zealand, both well vaccinated but where infection management protocols like masks or social distancing have been largely abandoned, face a continuing menace.
And in Australia, this failure of public health policy is currently causing 60 deaths a day throughout the country and has continued to blight a tourism industry that had hoped to get off the ground once vaccinations were widespread.
You can link here to PNG NRI Discussion Paper No 194, ‘Estimating willingness to take Covid-19 vaccine among wholesale and retail service workers in Port Moresby