The Jakarta Post
Almost one third of Indonesian parents and caregivers are doubtful about taking their children for routine immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic for fear of contracting the coronavirus, a recent survey has found.
The survey, carried out by the Health Ministry in collaboration with UNICEF, collected responses online from nearly 7,000 parents and caregivers of children under the age of 2 in 34 provinces from July 4 to July 13.
The survey found that only half of the respondents had taken their children for routine immunizations in the past two months.
“Prior to the pandemic, resistance to immunizations had already increased in Indonesia, and this was exacerbated by [immunization] vaccine doubts during the pandemic,” UNICEF said in a statement on Monday.
The survey also showed a “significant shift” in parents and caregivers’ behavior in seeking immunization services.
Prior to the pandemic, according to the survey, around 90 percent of Indonesian children had availed of immunization services at community health facilities such as community health centers (Puskesmas) and integrated health services posts (Posyandu) as well as village delivery facilities (Polindes).
However, the majority of the respondents stated that they were now seeking immunization in private clinics and hospitals due to the closure of government healthcare facilities in their communities.
Respondents expressed concern about the high cost of getting immunization services at private healthcare facilities, services that would be free at public facilities.
The Health Ministry’s disease control and prevention director general, Achmad Yurianto, said public health facilities should remain open and safe during the pandemic, and called on parents not to delay giving immunizations to their children.
“If any health service facilities are temporarily closed, parents should ask local community health staff for information on the closest alternatives,” said Yurianto, who is also the former national COVID-19 spokesman, as quoted in the statement.
The survey, however, also discovered high demand for immunization, showing that some parents and caregivers had looked for alternative service points.
The survey showed that parents who had studied the safe immunization guidelines applied by health authorities were more willing to take their children for vaccinations.
UNICEF argued that investment in safe immunization and expanding the outreach of health services were important and urgent in order to ease parents’ doubts.
“During the pandemic, children must be protected against diseases that can be prevented by immunizations. We must do everything we can so that all children throughout the country can continue to receive this important service,” UNICEF representative Debora Comini said.