Misinformation regarding Covid-19 vaccination can occur within the community at large, which includes the Orang Asli community. As highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccination and other public health initiatives are crucial, and among the effective strategies to protect oneself and reduce infection rates.
Common misinformation about the vaccine include side effects of the vaccine, fear of possible illness, or even worse, the perception of health deterioration in general.
It appears that Orang Asli groups are not spared from this misinformation, and this might delay the achievement of herd immunity within the larger community, if these vulnerable groups are left out from being vaccinated.
In addition, the lack of information about the vaccine in certain areas requires attention by every stakeholder, including health authorities.
Because of numerous agencies’ efforts to combat misinformation about accination, the public, including the Orang Asli, are more aware of the importance, and are more willing to get vaccinated.
Recently, collaborative efforts by health care personnel from Hospital Orang Asli Gombak, in collaboration with University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) staff participated in an outreach programme at Perkampungan Orang Asli Desa Tamuan.
This programme was supported by the Mass Rapid Transportation Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp), whereby two buses were provided to be used as transportation to vaccination centres.
About 508 people, including Orang Asli, non-Orang Asli and non-citizens from the targeted location were successfully vaccinated.
This approach indirectly will scale up the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK), allowing more people from vulnerable groups in selected areas to receive their vaccines promptly.
In addition, the teamwork in assisting the community and continuous efforts in creating more awareness and providing accurate vaccination information have undoubtedly made this programme a success.
We are pleased to be a part of the national Covid-19 response and hope that this programme will be replicated by others to assist the Orang Asli community and other vulnerable groups.
It is not impossible for personnel from universities and teaching hospitals to go beyond their usual routine occasionally, as we are in this together to help the larger community.
Hazreen Abdul Majid is head of the Centre for Population Health, University of Malaya and leader of the UMMC Outreach Programme.