The Covid-19 vaccine: should I get the shot or not?
Nine individuals talk about their reasons for getting the vaccine and their hesitancy for doing so. They also share their vaccination experience
Whether or not to be vaccinated is one of the hottest topics when it comes to Covid-19. In a bid to accelerate the distribution of the vaccine in Thailand, the government recently approved walk-in vaccination services nationwide that will provide free jabs to those who want them.
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has made vaccination a priority on the national agenda. He is also urging Thais to get vaccinated and not give in to hesitancy and has reassured people that all vaccines administered in Thailand have been tested and approved by the Ministry of Public Health and are safe.
So far, four coronavirus vaccines – AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna – have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the country. To be offered as an alternative to AstraZeneca and Sinovac, and mainly by private hospitals for a fee, the Moderna vaccine, which was approved last week, is expected to be available by October. It is understood that no order has so far been placed for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
With several vaccines now available to protect against the coronavirus that has disrupted the world for more than a year, a large number of Thais who are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine have either received or signed up to get one.
But not everyone.
“The Covid-19 vaccine is too new. There’s not enough information about it. Not knowing the long-term side effects is a problem for me. I’m not sure if the risks are worth it. I know several people who have had their jab and some of them have reported feeling quite sick afterward, “says Poo, a 42-year-old civil servant.
Despite being eligible, she has turned it down.
“Well, everyone must be exposed to germs in order to build immunity to them. Otherwise, we would be sick all the time. I am simply scared of how the vaccine might affect my body. It might give me a problem, says Ning, 32, a freelance graphic designer.
She says her risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus is quite low. She lives with 3 family members including her parents and works at home. Tech-savvy, she buys what she needs from online stores and uses her mobile to order food. And she connects with her customers and friends on social media.
A 36-year-old accountant has adopted a “wait and see” approach. “I just want to wait a while to see how it’s working. I would get it if it’s required,” she says.
‘Vaccine hesitancy’ bites in Thailand – but one province has the antidote
At a time when Thailand is struggling to convince its citizens to sign up for free COVID-19 vaccination, Lampang has recorded remarkable success, getting all eligible residents to register for jabs. A total of 223,796 residents of the northern province have already booked COVID-19 shots, filling the slots reserved for at-risk people.
Several people have however opted to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons.
Pearl, 54, who owns her own business, believes that she should protect herself and others and vaccination is the best way to do that.
“I just needed to get the vaccine, for myself as well as for my family so I would be able to visit my 94-year-old mom safely,” says the female entrepreneur who has already been fully vaccinated.
“I’m feeling great so far. I just had some pain around the injection site for a couple of days.”
At first, the entrepreneur was hesitant but finally decided to get the shots. She says she was confused by the mixed messages both about the vaccine and the coronavirus coming from her friends and acquaintances, as well as the fake news reports on social media.
With the third wave of Covid-19 running rampant throughout the country, infection rates skyrocketing and the number of deaths rising daily, a 48-year-old writer says she has decided to get a jab. She has always refused to get a flu shot, reasoning that as she never gets the flu, why bother having it?
“The pandemic is speeding up to the point that the government may not be able to control it any time soon. It would be better to get the shots to help protect against the virus. They appear to be effective at preventing severe disease, along with hospitalization and death, according to doctors,” she says.
Since receiving the first dose, she has had a headache.
“I’m a little bit achy and have a slight headache, a minor one that comes and goes,” she says.
A 23-year-old university student has already received the full-two dose course of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“I’m finished. The only side effect I have is a sore arm,” he says.
His college was shut last year due to the pandemic and the students had to adjust to online learning. For some, that was easy but he found it a major challenge, not least because he was worried about the impracticality of conducting his research virtually.
“It was a bit stressful. I needed to take online classes and connect with friends over the phone and the social media networks.
“Being fully vaccinated means I can return to campus next month with confidence. I don’t think I would be able to graduate while attempting to study remotely.” says the final year student.
Likewise, a 43-year-old woman who works for an online travel agency, feels nothing but relief at having received both her shots.
“I’d rather deal with the side effects than die of Covid-19. Getting vaccinated will help keep me from getting Covid-19 or, at the very least, prevent me from getting seriously ill if I do become infected. It may also protect people around me. ” she says.
She shared her experience on Facebook and also urged people to get their shots now that the government has given the green light for walk-in services.
After spending most of her time at home because of the pandemic, a 72-year-old retired secretary who is still active, will be getting her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine next week.
“The chance of becoming severely ill with Covid goes up with age. Older adults are more likely to suffer severe complications with coronavirus. I’ve got an appointment for my vaccine and I’m really excited. I’m still going to be cautious though, especially in large crowds.”
She added that being fully vaccinated will enable her to enjoy a more active lifestyle. Before the pandemic, she led a very independent life, doing her own shopping going to the gym, and meeting up with her friends.
COVID-19 vaccines update
May 12, 2021: ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ bites in Thailand – but one province has the antidote May 11, 2021: Beer, cash and credit: How other countries are using incentives to combat vaccine hesitancy May 10, 2021: Explainer: Thailand’s vaccine plans and rollout timeline May 8, 2021: Thailand orders an additional 50
Arinya, a 53-year-old merchant, says she will go ahead with the vaccine now that her doctor has given his approval. She has continued to conduct her business throughout the pandemic, going from market to market to sell clothes. That involves mixing with fellow vendors and customers, so she could well become infected and pass it on to others even if she is asymptomatic herself.
“I’m aware that my risk of coming into contact with Covid-19 and spreading it is high. So, I should get a vaccine. I suffer from allergies so I was worried that I might suffer an allergic reaction to the vaccine. That’s why I checked with my doctor first,” she says.
In the hope of doing away with vaccine hesitancy, medical experts have been providing facts and reassurance about the Covid-19 vaccine. Their advice is included in a report by Thai PBS World that was compiled from “Health Talk” sessions on the Rama Channel.
Dr Yong Poovorawan, a renowned virologist from Chulalongkorn University, said that crossing Bangkok’s Silom Road is still riskier than receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, despite reports of side effects.
Prof Dr Kulkanya Chokephaibulkit from Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital said that nearly 2 million people have been vaccinated in Thailand with no fatalities. In comparison, between one and two out of every 100 Cvovid-19 patients in Thailand die daily from the virus.
Asst Prof Dr. Kamthorn Malatham, president of the Infectious Disease Association of Thailand and lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital said that the risk of getting infected is halved soon after the first shot. Protection rises further after the second shot.
He added that getting shots protects not just the recipients, but also those around them, and will help allow all of us to get back to normal life in the months to come.