English Editor: Eric Rosenfeld
In what seems like the blink of an eye, it has been three years since the COVID-19 became a part of our daily lives. As of November 18, 2022, according to widely accepted statistics, there have been more than 636 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, and more than 6.6 million deaths. In the United States, the cumulative number of confirmed cases has exceeded 98 million, and the death toll has exceeded one million. Behind these shocking numbers, how many lives have been shattered, how many families have been destroyed, and how many other tragedies have been caused by the virus?
Although most people’s lives have gradually returned to normal, the virus is still around us, waiting for an opportunity to attack us. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated on October 19, 2022, that the COVID-19 pandemic is still a global public health emergency. The continuous mutation of the virus has brought great uncertainty to the course of the pandemic, and it is not over yet. It may never end, instead continuing to evolve.
When facing an inevitable new wave of the pandemic, should we ignore it or should we continue to receive booster shots and take personal protective measures? As the largest Asian-American news media in Philadelphia, Metro Chinese Weekly launched a survey on vaccination status in the Chinese community on its WeChat public platform “PhillyGuide,” hoping to gain more understanding about the attitude and practice of the Chinese community towards the vaccine. We wanted to be able to provide valuable data and context for the next phase of pandemic practices.
This survey was conducted anonymously. Each WeChat registered user could only cast a single vote for each question, thus ensuring the integrity of the data obtained.
A total of 1044 people participated in the survey. 425 were men, accounting for 40.7% of the total votes; 629 were women, accounting for 59.3%. People aged 31-50 accounted for 52.2% and were the main participating group. In addition, people over 51 accounted for 17% of the total votes, and people under 30 accounted for 30.8%.
The survey had a total of 13 questions, mainly related to vaccination status and attitudes, as well as personal protective measures and overall views on the pandemic.
Photo credits to Reuters
Understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine
The first category of questions in the survey related to the understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine. The results of the survey show that 43% of the respondents have obtained information about the vaccine through the Internet; 35%, through traditional media (radio, TV, newspapers and magazines); and 14%, through direct medical advice.Online dissemination is clearly the preferred way for the Chinese community to obtain information about the COVID-19 vaccine. This reminds public health authorities to pay attention to the importance of online media.
Regarding vaccine understanding, the Chinese community was relatively informed. 59% of respondents were partly informed; 34% were fully informed; only 5% were uninformed. These findings reflect the Chinese community’s positive attitude toward vaccine awareness.
Safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine are important considerations for everyone when contemplating vaccination. 48% of respondents believe that the vaccine is safe; another 45% are neutral; only 5% of respondents think the vaccine is unsafe. This result of the survey correlates with the experience of people who have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 vaccine. It has been almost two years since the first vaccine was implemented at the end of 2020. Many people have also received multiple booster shots after being fully vaccinated.
Except for the second half of 2021, when there was a brief panic following the news that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine caused blood clots, the vaccines approved in the United States have been safe, stable, and effective. Respondents who maintain a neutral attitude seem to be considering potential long-term effects. After all, the production period of the Covid-19 vaccine was roughly one year. Long-term longitudinal studies will take many years.
Survey results on the perceived effectiveness of the vaccine were also positive. 53% thought that the vaccine is effective; 21%, generally effective; 20%, hard to say; and only 5%, ineffective. Nearly half of the “generally effective” and “hard to say” responses are based on a bad experience of being recruited after vaccination. Such anecdotal comments may be erroneously conflating perceived effectiveness with expected side effects.
According to the data from the CDC and various COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, because the virus mutates so rapidly, vaccine updates always lag. Therefore, many people still become infected after being vaccinated. The most important metric is that infection is much less severe among those vaccinated and subsequently infected with any strand compared to those who have not been vaccinated.
Willingness to receive the vaccine
The survey listed three questions regarding vaccine willingness: the reasons for being willing to be vaccinated; whether you are willing to vaccinate children under the age of 12 in your family; and whether you need to be vaccinated at your own expense.
In answer to the first question, 63% of the respondents indicated a proactive attitude towards vaccination, believing that vaccination can protect themselves and protect their family members from infection. There was widespread acceptance that one should follow the advice of experts, or be influenced by those around you, to get vaccinated.
More than a year and a half after the first COVID vaccines became available, ensuring equitable access to all Philadelphians, regardless of race and income, remains a challenge. So has persistent vaccine hesitancy in certain communities. Among 5-to-11-year-olds who have been eligible since last fall, about 37% of Philadelphia’s White children are fully vaccinated, compared to 25% of Hispanic children and 22% of Black children. Vaccination rates among Asian children in this age range are much higher at 57%.
In the survey, nearly 40% of parents expressed a cautious and positive attitude towards their children’s vaccination. On the question of “whether to vaccinate a 12-year-old child at home,” 38% of parents said that they have vaccinated their children, and 26% of the parents have not vaccinated their children but express a willingness and state that they “will vaccinate.” This is similar to the number of parents who are “watching and watching.” 23% of the respondents are still hesitant, and another 11% of parents have clearly stated that they will not vaccinate their children under the age of 12.
Getting the vaccine is currently free, regardless of health insurance status. However, not long ago, Pfizer stated that the vaccine cost structure may change next year. It is not yet known whether insurance companies or uninsured individuals will bear this cost.
For seasonal flu, medical insurance provides free vaccines. f one does not have insurance, one might need to pay as much as $56 for the vaccination. This undoubtedly serves as a barrier for those who cannot afford to pay.
When asked whether they would be willing to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine, 43% of the respondents said they would vaccinate while 31% of the respondents said they would not. Another 24% of respondents said they did not know what they would do. Policymakers must address the question of whether individuals should pay out of pocket for COVID-19 vaccines, especially if the vaccine becomes seasonal.
Regarding the prevention of the COVID-19
We asked, “Have you ever been infected with the Covid-19 virus?” Although the Greater Philadelphia area adopted a rigorous lockdown policy in the early stage of the pandemic, after the rollout of the vaccine, many people became eager to return to their pre-pandemic lives. Coupled with the rapid mutation of the virus, starting from the second half of 2022, epidemic prevention measures gradually relaxed, and the infection rate of the Covid-19 has rebounded several times on a large scale.
Somewhat surprisingly, 47% of the survey respondents indicated that they were “never infected.” This high proportion may flow from the fact that the Chinese community has always insisted on wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and actively taking personal prevention measures. It is also likely that a significant number of respondents contracted the virus asymptomatically.
Some assumptions about the Chinese community’s adoption of public safety guidelines were confirmed by the results of the question, “Are you still wearing a mask?” 22% of the respondents said they wear masks whenever they go out; 38% choose to wear masks indoors with many people, which means an incredibly high percentage of Chinese still regard wearing masks as an effective way to mitigate against the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The future of vaccines, the future of COVID-19
As of November 16, 2022, the COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard of the Philadelphia City shows that a total of 135,518 self-identifying Asians have been vaccinated. In addition, 419,490 people identifying as White have been vaccinated, 417,879 people identifying as Black have been vaccinated, and 180,162 of those identifying as Hispanic have been vaccinated.
Although the Philadelphia government does not have statistics on the Covid-19 vaccination rates of different ethnic groups, according to the proportion of the Asian population accounting for 6.8% of the total population of Philadelphia, the Asian population accounts for 11.7% of the total vaccination population, which is significantly higher than other ethnic groups.
Photo credits to www.phila.gov
亚裔群体的高接种率，和亚裔群体社区都新冠疫苗的宣传和推广密切相关。除此之外，社区也通过中文服务等等多种方式，鼓励大家接种疫苗。2021年3月中旬，在新冠疫苗接种刚刚全面铺开的几天内，在费城华埠发展会（Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation）的推动下，首个新冠疫苗接种站就在唐人街的华鼎中心对面开放。这个接种站，可以为大家提供英语、西班牙语和四种汉语方言的语言服务，解决了不少华人语言障碍的问题。
The high vaccination rate of the Asian community closely correlates to the publicity and promotion of the Covid-19 vaccine in the Asian community. In addition, the community also uses various methods such as Chinese language services to encourage everyone to be vaccinated.
The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) was one of the first neighborhood organizations to launch a community vaccination site, which opened in mid-March 2021 across from the Crane Community Center near the Vine Street Expressway. This vaccination site solved the problem of language barriers for many Chinese, with language services in English, Spanish and four Chinese dialects.
Photo credit to WHYY
亚裔美国人联合会（Asian Americans United）也是积极倡导亚裔社群接种新冠疫苗的社团之一。为了能联系到华裔社群聚集地的居民们，该组织利用微信传播准确信息，提供健康咨询，消除有关新冠疫苗的虚假信息，并敦促大家进行疫苗信息的注册。
Asian Americans United (AAU) is another association that actively promotes vaccination in Asian communities. To reach residents of the Chinese community, the organization used WeChat, the dominant social media platform used by Chinese, to disseminate accurate information, provide health advice, and urge everyone to register for the vaccine.
In our survey, in response to the question “What kind of work do you want your community to do in terms of vaccination?”, 17% of respondents want Chinese language services at vaccination clinics; 12% of respondents want to provide home vaccination services for people with reduced mobility; 7% want promotional materials in Chinese; and 50% think that the above three methods are feasible, and hope to encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Almost three years have passed since December 2019, when the novel coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China. Our survey respondents maintain a cautious attitude toward the future of Covid-19. 79% percent of respondents said the virus would be around for a long time, with just 4% saying the opposite and another 16% indicating “unknown.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has not yet ended and challenges still exist. We hope that the Asian community can overcome this public health crisis together with all ethnic groups by vaccinating and continuing to follow public health mitigation guidelines.
*This article is supported by funding from WHYY.