Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Vaccine hesitancy in Hong Kong

merely 10.2 people with a vaccination record out of 100,000 people die (, 2022). Statistics like this are more clear, understandable, and less likely to be falsely interpreted. They directly pointed out that, to prevent hospitalization and death, vaccination should be the right choice to make.

Perceived side effects were also an important indicator of vaccine hesitancy. In this study, the elderly who considered side effects of vaccines as ‘little’ were usually vaccinated. The less acceptant they were to COVID-19 vaccines, the more severe they perceived the side effects to be. It was found out that most unvaccinated individuals worried that the side effects of vaccines would be severe, which in turn hindered vaccine uptake among them. Many did not want to be vaccinated because of the overload of negative news about the vaccines. Local medias may contribute to exaggerating the adverse effect of vaccines. But the government may also contribute to the overly negative perceived side effects of COVID-19 vaccines. Cases of complications and deaths after vaccination were reported to the press by authorities in COVID-19 briefings every day. For the sake of transparency, every single case of death after COVID-19 vaccination was publicized by the government on a daily basis, regardless of the underlying cause of death. Even though these reports did not indicate any causal relationships between vaccines and medical complications, they might be manipulated and misled many citizens, especially those elderly who are more vulnerable to diseases, into believing t hat vaccines had severe side effects such as stroke, myocarditis, Bell’s palsy, anaphylaxis, (, 2022) or death. As a result, the perception of serious side effect deterred many elderly people from vaccination. To tackle the problem, the government should stop or avoid the practice of reporting cases of complication or death that are unrelated to vaccination in spite of government transparency, as it will only overload people with the negative impact of COVID-19 vaccines. Moreover, the government should indeed emphasize how vaccines prevent the development of medical complications. Statistics illustrated that between 27 December 2021 and 23 January 2022, ‘ out of those without a vaccination record, the ratio of death cases with acute stroke or acute myocardial infarction was 7.5 cases for every 100,000 people, whereas the ratio of death cases under the same category for those with a vaccination record was 0.9 cases for every 100,000 people ’ (, 2022). This positive news will send a clear message to people that vaccines are not only safe, but also beneficial. Actually, the government has already stopped mentioning irrelevant cases of complications and death after vaccination and it has proven useful in reducing vaccine hesitancy, thus increasing vaccine uptake. It is important to note that healthcare professionals, such as family doctors, also play an important role in vaccine hesitancy amongst elderly. Studies have shown that people are more likely to be vaccinated if they obtain the knowledge about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines from healthcare professionals or healthcare providers (P. K. H. Mo, 2015). However, doctors in Hong Kong might be too conservative to advise the elderly to be vaccinated, especially those with chronic illness. As there was not much research conducted about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, not wanting to take the risk, instead of clearly encouraging elderly to be vaccinated, doctors might advise them to wait-and-see due to worries that vaccines may have potentially dangerous side effects for the elderly. This makes many doubtful elderly even more hesitant about vaccines and vaccination, which will increase vaccine hesitancy and lower vaccine uptake. For that reason, the government has taken a new approach to encourage healthcare professionals, particularly family doctors, to recommend vaccination. The government has


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