Misinformation, hoaxes on COVID-19 vaccines drive residents in NTT village to hide in the woods

Photo: Indonesian Health Ministry
Photo: Indonesian Health Ministry

Misinformation and hoaxes surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine have sparked fear among some people in Indonesia, so much so that residents of a hamlet in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) reportedly went into the woods to hide. 

They are residents of Batu Putih hamlet, which is part of NTT’s Kabola district in Alor regency. Agustinus Christmas, Alor Precinct Chief, confirmed the incident yesterday. 

“They hid in the woods after reading many reports on social media and other information that scared them,” Agustinus said, without explaining what the fake information conveyed.

Local authorities then sought these residents to clarify and educate them on vaccines, which compelled some to return home. However, others still reportedly took refuge in the forest. 

Indonesia kicked off the second phase of its mass vaccination program just yesterday, starting with the region’s biggest textile market in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, where 10,000 vendors signed up to receive their first shot. The second phase targets about 17.8 million people in total, including educators and market vendors. 

The incident in NTT cast a small glimpse into Indonesia’s challenge to vaccinate its population, especially in ensuring that people are well-informed about what getting inoculated means.  

The Southeast Asian country aims to vaccinate some 180 million people to reach herd immunity against COVID-19 by early 2022. At the current vaccination rate, Bloomberg has projected that it would take Indonesia at least 10 years to achieve the feat, though the Health Ministry is adamant that the rate will soon pick up.

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