Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Vaccine hesitancy in Hong Kong

used simple statements in advising doctors that elderly would be suitable for vaccination if they didn’t have any allergic reactions to previously injected influenza vaccines. This guideline provides more direct and clearer message to doctors about the safety of the virus and alleviate their worries to advise vaccination to elderly. Besides confidence in COVID-19 vaccines which includes perceived benefits and perceived side effects, knowledge of COVID-19 vaccines was found to be one of the most significant factors of vaccine hesitancy amongst elderly in Hong Kong. The 5C model (Cornelia Betsch, 2018) was developed to assess vaccine hesitancy, and collective responsibility is one of the five factors in this model. However, before knowing if elderly were willing to be vaccinated for the collective benefits, it must first be confirmed the elderly knew what the collective benefits of COVID-19 vaccine were. The collective benefit of the vaccines is being able to reduce the infectiousness of infected individual. If infected people can transmit the coronavirus when vaccinated, transmission chains within the community are weakened or ceased, leading to a lower possibility for other people, especially those with weaker immunity, to be infected. This study has shown that fewer than half of the respondents (around 44.0%) actually knew that vaccines have the ability to reduce transmission and protect the rest of the community. In the short term, the government can inform the public with the knowledge of vaccines through COVID-19 briefings. Information should be distributed at platforms that are more accessible for elderly, such as the radio, newspaper, or news reports. The government can also encourage family doctors, and healthcare provider at hospitals, to educate the elderly about vaccines, especially the collective protection vaccines provided. Talks, leaflets can also be given at places where elderly go, such as elderly health centres, and community centres. Family support is an important facilitator for vaccine uptake. In general, family members who support the respondents’ decision to be vaccinated were usually vaccinated themselves. When supported by their family members, the elderly were more likely to get vaccinated, as this study has shown that 91.6% of the vaccinated respondents had vaccinated family members, with 71.0% of them supported by their family. Pro- vaccine campaign should promote vaccination amongst elderly’s family so that as many of them would adopt a positive attitude towards vaccines that could potentially decrease elderly’s vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccine uptake amongst them. Perceived susceptibility has also proven to be closely linked to vaccine hesitancy. According to this study, respondents who reckoned themselves to be less susceptible to COVID-19 were more complacent about being vaccinated, and consequently exhibited stronger vaccine hesitancy. The government and healthcare professionals should emphasize the risks of elderly not being vaccinated when they were infected with the disease. Hong Kong experienced the highest peak of COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths around the world in early March 2022. As of 5 March 2022, confirmed COVID-19 cases have surged to a record-high level with a cumulative 1561 deaths, and up to some 9200 deaths at the time of writing this report in April 2022. Over 90 percent of them were elderly aged 60 or above (Trading Economics, n.d.). The risk was not only substantially greater with increased age, but also when they were not vaccinated against COVID-19. Indeed, without a complete course of vaccination, the case fatality rate of the elderly aged 80 or above was as high as 8.61% in the fifth wave. However, if they were fully vaccinated, the case fatality rate plunges to just 1.57% (, 2022). Concurring with Professor Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist from University of Hong Kong, vaccine hesitancy among the


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