BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – A total of 50,658 respondents participated in a national survey on vaccine acceptance with 59 percent saying they would “definitely or likely take” the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available in Brunei.

The two-week survey, which ran from January 15 to 28 on the government’s contact tracing app BruHealth, showed that 33 percent of respondents remain unsure about taking the vaccine at this stage.

A further eight percent said they would not, or were unlikely to take the vaccine if offered.

Despite a third of people expressing hesitance towards receiving the coronavirus jab, 84 percent of survey respondents said they would trust the health ministry’s recommendation to get the COVID-19 vaccine if it were offered to them.

“Individuals who expressed positive vaccine intention were more likely to have had a vaccine as an adult and they believed that getting a COVID-19 vaccine would protect others, allow for safer travel, and agreed that the COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective,” the Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement Saturday.

Some 81 percent of respondents believed that getting a COVID-19 vaccine was either “very important or moderately important” for their health, while 15 percent said it was less important.

Meanwhile, just four percent said that getting the vaccine was not at all important for their health.

MoH said the findings from the survey would be used to refine its COVID-19 vaccination strategy and address public concerns.

The survey questionnaire — which quizzed respondents on their feelings about vaccine safety and their perceptions of different vaccine candidates — was adapted from a survey created by the World Health Organization.

“For those of us who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, getting vaccinated is the most important action we can take to protect ourselves, our families, and our society from COVID-19,” the ministry said.

“To date, more than 120 million people across the world have already been vaccinated with COVID-19 and it is important that in Brunei Darussalam, we play our role in taking the vaccine when it is available to us.”

Brunei aims to inoculate at least 70 percent of its population once the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrive in the second quarter of this year.

The government has procured the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for roughly 20 percent of the population, while another 50 percent will be obtained through the COVAX facility.

Previously, the health ministry said it won’t be mandatory for everyone in Brunei to be vaccinated, but it is strongly encouraged.

The vaccine will be rolled out in stages, and will be offered to frontline workers first, followed by high-risk groups such as the elderly and those suffering from chronic disease.

World Health Organization experts have suggested vaccine coverage of 65 to 70 percent is needed to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.