Health workers wait for residents for their dose of AstraZeneca vaccine outside a vaccination center in Suva, after Fiji announced plans to make the coronavirus vaccine compulsory for all workers as it battles a runaway outbreak of the Delta variant. Photo: AFP or licensors
Fifty percent of Fijians surveyed in a study say the fear of side-effects is the reason they will not vaccinate against Covid-19, a study has shown.
The study conducted by NGO, Dialogue Fiji from June 25 to July 10 this year found that 53.9 percent of Fijians surveyed believed the Covid-19 vaccine was "very safe".
The survey, 'Determinants of Covid-19 Vaccines Hesitancy in Fiji', stated that public confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccines to prevent infection may be affected by perceived risks associated with vaccination.
"Of the 1047 respondents, only 53.9 percent reported the vaccine was 'very safe', while 19.4 percent reported the vaccines to be 'little safe' to 'not safe at all'," Dialogue Fiji stated.
"This was also reflected in the hesitant group, where 50 percent reported a fear of vaccine side-effects as a reason for their refusal.
"Other causes include vaccines that aren't safe (36 percent), vaccines that have metal chips and are connected to 5G or are magnetic (17 percent) and the religious reasons (10 percent)."
Dialogue Fiji also stated that demographically, there was no observable difference between the two genders - 47.3 percent male versus 49.8 percent female or the two major ethnic groups (44.3 percent iTaukei or indigenous people versus 43.6 percent Fijians of Indian descent).
The study also found that 76.8 percent had reported their intention to get vaccinated, 13.1 percent were hesitant while 10.1 percent were undecided.
"The majority were from the Central Division (50.1 percent), Western (36.6 percent), Northern (8.2 percent) and Eastern (5.2 percent)."
As of 1 September 2021, 560,940 adults in Fiji have received their first dose of the vaccine and 278,131 got both jabs.
The Health Ministry said this means that 96 percent of the target population have received at least one dose and 48.4 percent are now fully-vaccinated nation-wide.
Groups likely to vaccinate
Meanwhile, the survey also found that females, Fijians of Indian descent and followers of Islam were more likely to agree to getting vaccinated against Covid-19.
According to the survey results, females had higher vaccine acceptance (74.9 percent) compared with males.
"Amongst the major ethnic groups in Fiji, Covid-19 vaccine acceptance rates were highest amongst the Indo-Fijians (84.1 percent), Rotumans (69.4 percent) and the iTaukei (52 percent)."
Religion was also a significant determinant of vaccine acceptance, the study found.
"Those who followed Islam (88.6 percent) and Hinduism (83.4 percent) were more likely to get vaccinated compared to Christians, who were most vaccine-hesitant (14.8 percent) and had the lowest levels of acceptance (59.2 percent).
"According to Kant et al., there is prevalence of belief in Fiji that faith played a vital role in sustaining health and well-being and there would be no need for vaccines."
The study stated that Christian influencers, including religious leaders, shared vaccine-related conspiracy theories through social media platforms (Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube).
They associated the Covid-19 vaccines to demonic potions and 'mark of the beast', "a plausible exposition of low acceptance rates amongst those who follow Christianity."
Fiji reported 253 new cases and three deaths on Friday.
That compared with 250 cases and one death reported on Thursday.
There are now 16,352 active cases in isolation with the death toll at 508, with 505 of them from this latest outbreak that began in April.