Around 1,047,000 of the territory’s 7.5 million people have had two doses of vaccine since the inoculation programme began more than three months ago.
The researchers said their recent survey of 1,200 people suggests this figure is not going to shoot up anytime soon, with health concerns and a reluctance to follow any advice from the government cited as reasons for not getting a jab.
Respondents were also left unmoved by the idea of various possible “incentives” to get inoculated, such as travel permits or extra paid leave, the researchers said.
However, microbiology professor Paul Chan, who led the study, said this does not mean that such incentives would be useless.
“Each of them does not stand out as a very strong incentive. In other words, we have to rely on a combination of them, as many as possible. Each of them may [appeal to] a small sector of the population,” he said.
Chan said the key to boosting the SAR’s inoculation rate is to get doctors to persuade their patients that vaccination is a good idea.
“The most important misinterpretation hindering people from taking vaccines is that they think some may die after getting vaccinated. Actually, the government has tried its very best to clarify those deaths are not due to vaccines, but somehow this information cannot get across to most of the public,” he said.
“When we try to explain health information to the public, it cannot be one-for-all kind of information. It has to be individualised according to their background, in terms of their health condition, their education. And in this case, only doctors can do it.”
Chan said that as well as one-to-one conversations about Covid vaccines with patients, doctors could also consider holding talks in the community, alongside pharmacists and nurses.
He added that it is “a bit unfortunate” that distrust of the government is putting many people off getting jabs.
“They do not trust the government’s recommendations. The overall trust in the government is linked to their action for some public health policies, such as vaccination,” he said.
The researchers added that younger people in particular say they do not trust the authorities, or the vaccine manufacturers.