Covid-19 vaccine: Many rural folk still unaware of its importance

By Emma Victoria

WITH merely 24 hours before Sarawak kicks off its first phase of the Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, many rural areas remain unaware about the importance of the vaccine to reduce the spread of the virus.

Rural health activist Agnes Padan said there isn’t any awareness campaign to educate the villagers about the immunisation programme or the vaccine yet.

She said it is important to win the confidence of the rural communities to ensure a smooth vaccination process.

“The government needs to educate the rural folks or send doctors and nurses to explain the seriousness of Covid-19 and how the vaccine can protect them and their loved ones,” she said when contacted.

“The government also needs to ensure there are sufficient medical personnel or manpower to monitor the rural folks for a few hours after receiving the vaccines as they might not be aware of the side effects,” she said.

Apart from that, Agnes also questioned if the healthcare system in the rural areas is capable of managing cases with side effects after receiving the vaccines.

“We can boost the confidence among the rural communities and reduce vaccine hesitancy if we are able to provide all the information needed,” she said.

Sibu Kenyah Uma Baha Women’s Association chairman, Umie Liau said most of the longhouse folks are elderly and majority did not attend school, hence, they would always listen to those educated ones.

“Hence, to avoid misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines, we need those who speak the local languages that they understand – to explain it.

“They are most likely to listen to teachers, doctors, nurses as well as the local community leaders such as tuai rumah, ketua kampung,” she said.

“We can’t rely much on social media as they don’t have the access and the message will not reach them,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Tourism Federation President Audry Wan Ullok said the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee and other authorities need to go on the ground to educate the rural folks.

She said it is important to avoid any misperception about the Covid-19 vaccine as well as various SOPs to prevent the spread of the virus.

“In Sarawak, we have seen a few clusters come from funerals in the villages and longhouses, hence, it shows that they might not be really aware about the SOPs,” she said.

Yesterday, Sarawak received its first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine – 23,400 doses which will be transported to 53 vaccination centres in eight divisions tomorrow (Friday).

The state government is looking to supply on other vaccines available in the market as it targets to vaccinate at least 2.2 million people, including Sarawakians and non-Sarawakians to achieve herd immunity by August.