More info and vaccine awareness vital, says counsellor

JOHOR BARU: Those choosing not to take the Covid-19 vaccine should be prepared to forgo “privileges” that are given to those who are fully vaccinated.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia counselling centre director Dr Zulfikar Ahmad said that while the public should be allowed to make their own decision on whether to be vaccinated, they should also be held accountable for the decision they made.

“Once you have chosen not to take the vaccine, you should be accountable and be prepared for the consequences that come along with that decision, including forgoing certain privileges such as being able to dine in at eateries, visit certain places and travel across state borders.

“The government and authorities cannot punish or force them into taking the vaccine. That is not the right and effective approach to take, but we should make them think on their own,” he told The Star.

Instead of confronting the group and pushing them to change their minds, he said the more meaningful approach was to educate and provide them with sufficient information in order for them to make their own decisions.

“When people have set their mind on something, it is not easy to make them change it, especially if they feel like they are being forced into it. They will be defensive and once it comes to a point, they may become emotional.

“Which is why, in counselling, we will not tell people to change their minds. We may give them our opinions but most importantly, give them information,” he said.

Zulfikar noted that many who previously hesitated to take the vaccine had decided to take it, and this was testament that people could indeed have a change of opinion, especially after they see things happening in front of their own eyes.

“As humans, we are not easily convinced with words but we need proof and data. When they see more people taking the vaccines, including those from other parts of the world, they are slowly convinced,” he said.

He also cautioned against the use of the term “anti-vaccine” or “antivax” to label groups who have yet to take the vaccine.

“Using such labels will only make them feel discriminated upon. We have to also remember that there are those who have medical conditions and others who are still sitting on the fence,” said Zulfikar.

On the other hand, the government must also be firm and make it clear that those who had decided not to take it would lose out on certain privileges, he said.

“Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s statement to the group a couple of weeks ago, telling them ‘life will be difficult for them’ is a strong and necessary message.

“As a minister, he needs to be firm. Sure, we cannot force or punish them but they should also remember that life will not be easy for them,” Zulfikar added.

Last month, Khairy issued a warning, saying that while the government would not likely issue a federal mandate to make vaccination compulsory, it would not make it any easier for vaccine deniers.

“Sorry to say, we will continue to make life very difficult for you if you are not vaccinated because you choose not to.

“If you cannot be vaccinated on health grounds, we will give (digital) exemption through MySejahtera,” he said.

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