One-and-a-half years into the global scourge that is Covid-19, Singaporeans are all too cognisant of the notion that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
For a community to attain herd immunity, at least 70 per cent of the populace needs to be immune either through an infection or from a vaccine.
Yet, from the perspective of a healthcare professional, it can be frustrating to see that no amount of persuasion can nudge a patient to get vaccinated when his apprehension surrounding vaccines is too deeply entrenched.
While media publicity is effective in creating vaccine awareness, perhaps a more aggressive carrot-and-stick approach is needed now in getting more people vaccinated.
First, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) can be used to target anti-vaxxers.
This is not a new strategy as Pofma has been used to combat fake news.
There is so much pseudoscience out there working against evidence-based medicine that the moment one allegation is debunked, another pops up.
Social media, especially, is awash with misguided anxiety about vaccines.
While it may be impossible to contain the rapid spread of all kinds of misinformation, the falsehoods that gain massive traction should be silenced.
Free speech is pernicious when it puts public health at risk.
Second, do more to incentivise people to get vaccinated.
Some countries do this by offering lottery prizes. Locally, this could be done with a monetary reward like a top-up to Central Provident Fund accounts, a small token sum into a personal account or a grocery voucher.
To argue that this encourages people to demand a reward before doing the right thing is missing the point, which is to have as many people as we can vaccinated in the shortest time possible.
Finally, if push comes to shove, restrict access to public places for the unvaccinated.
A vaccine certificate is already built into the TraceTogether app.
In enclosed spaces such as shopping centres, supermarkets, restaurants, cinemas and event halls, verifying a person’s vaccination status is more useful than checking his body temperature.
Those who opt not to get vaccinated, except those who are medically unable to, should be denied entry.
Temperature-checking is actually a waste of resources because Covid-19 can be transmitted when an infected person is asymptomatic, and also because the temperature is often not properly taken, such as when people wave a hand at the infrared thermometer.
Unless we want to stay under draconian public health restrictions for a protracted foreseeable future, the vaccination roll-out, which is far from accomplishing its mission, must be accelerated.
Chua Tee Lian (Dr)