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KUALA LUMPUR: Efforts to reach out and educate those living in rural areas about the Covid-19 vaccine should be doubled, especially when the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) is on track.
In this regard, the government needs to have all hands on deck to ensure the success of educating these communities, especially the Orang Asli.
The Malaysian Relief Agency (MRA) Orang Asli Community Development sub-division chief Dr Mohd Fairuz Ali emphasised the importance of approaching the right people to raise awareness on vaccination.
“It is extremely vital to educate those in rural areas, especially the Orang Asli community, on the importance of Covid-19 vaccination.
“Those from the Orang Asli communities are very straight-forward. They would usually wait and see how one thing could affect the others before making their own decision.
“To reach out to them, the government must realise the importance of nurturing good relations with their Tok Batin because if you lose the ‘head’ (Tok Batin), the ‘body’ (communities) will also be lost.
“In order to get correct and positive information relayed to the Orang Asli, we need doctors, nurses and even teachers to go to the ground and speak to these Tok Batin as part of the Covid-19 vaccination awareness,” he said.
Dr Fairuz said however, some sections of the community would have reservations on Covid-19 vaccination, even when they were well informed.
“We have to keep in mind that not everybody from the rural areas will accept conventional medicine. Some still prefer traditional medicine.
“Some turn to traditional medicine if they’ve had bad experiences with modern medicine in the past, such as experiencing side effects.”
Understanding the challenge of educating these communities, Dr Fairuz said it really did take a village to “raise a child”, and this applied to educating all segments of society about the importance of being vaccinated.
“I believe the target is to get at least 65 per cent of our communities, not just those from rural areas and the Orang Asli, but all Malaysians to be vaccinated.
“We cannot force everybody to get vaccinated. But the least we could do is to educate them and get their informed consent so that they are willing to do so,” he said.
Concurring with Dr Fairuz on the importance of raising awareness on vaccinations, Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said it was best to deploy those who have been inoculated to educate people about the importance of Covid-19 vaccination.
“You can’t blame those in the rural areas for having preconceived ideas about vaccination. They absorb information from their surroundings, like during small talks with relatives and neighbours. Some do not even know what is MySejahtera.
“They need to talk to those who have been vaccinated, so they are able to learn from someone’s real-life experience. We can utilise all communication avenues in engaging the rural folk.
“For instance, get the frontliners to speak from their experience. I’m positive that many are curious about how it feels like to be vaccinated.”
Dr Subramaniam also said the government should talk to every community leader, and not just the Tok Batin.
“Recently, it has come to my attention that some preachers have been talking about Covid-19 in religious gatherings. Some have preached misinformation. The government should talk to them. Educate them to impart awareness on the Covid-19 vaccine.
“The government has invested a lot for the vaccination exercise. We can’t let these efforts go to waste,” he said.