Asia’s ‘Last Mile’ Vaccination Challenge

Authors: Danielle Goldfarb, Bart W. Édes

The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is picking up pace in low and middle-income countries in Asia, raising hopes that government restrictions on mobility and mandatory quarantines will be loosened in the coming months. Nonetheless, the increasing availability of vaccines does nothing to address a problem that bedevils many countries, and not only in Asia: the lack of vaccine enthusiasm, the reluctance, in other words, by a large share of the population, to get vaccinated. This phenomenon could give COVID-19 variants the opportunity to evolve, spread, and significantly slow the pace of economic recovery.

The Philippines, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia now rank at the bottom of Bloomberg’s COVID resilience ranking. Data collected by RIWI, a Toronto-based company that offers tracking surveys and predictive analytics, show that about 40 per cent of respondents in the Philippines and about one-third of respondents in China and India say they will not take a COVID-19 vaccine (see Chart 1) [1].

Share who would not take a COVID-19 vaccine, China, Philippines, India, Canada, UK, Brazil, 2020 versus 2021

RIWI uses a method that allows random exposure for anyone with online access in any country. As a result, these data, collected continuously every day between March 2020 and June 2021, reflect broad-based sentiment. The data include opinions of individuals who do not habitually respond to polls or participate in surveys, nor are they individuals likely to use social media to express their views on vaccination. Unlike other surveys, RIWI does not collect personal identifiers; guaranteed anonymity maximizes honest answers.

While vaccine confidence is a major challenge and remains insufficiently high across almost all countries, it has been rising in Western countries like Canada and the United Kingdom as vaccine rollout ramps up. Whereas willingness to “get the jab” has been consistently high in pandemic-ravaged Brazil, confidence declined abruptly in the Philippines over most of the first half of 2021.

For the full piece, see here on the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s website: