Asia’s Last Mile Vaccination Challenge

Bart Édes
7 min readJul 13, 2021
Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is picking up pace in low- and middle-income countries in Asia, raising hopes that government restrictions on mobility and mandatory quarantines will be loosened in the coming months. Nonetheless, the increasing availability of vaccines does nothing to address a problem that bedevils many countries, and not only in Asia: the lack of vaccine enthusiasm, the reluctance, in other words, by a large share of the population, to get vaccinated. This phenomenon could give COVID-19 variants the opportunity to evolve, spread, and significantly slow the pace of economic recovery.

The Philippines, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia now rank at the bottom of Bloomberg’s COVID resilience ranking. Data collected by RIWI, a Toronto-based company that offers tracking surveys and predictive analytics, show that about 40 per cent of respondents in the Philippines and about one-third of respondents in China and India say they will not take a COVID-19 vaccine (see Chart 1) [1].

RIWI uses a method that allows random exposure for anyone with online access in any country. As a result, these data, collected continuously every day between March 2020 and June 2021, reflect broad-based sentiment. The data include opinions of individuals who do not habitually respond to polls or participate in surveys, nor are they individuals likely to use social media to express their views on vaccination. Unlike other surveys, RIWI does not collect personal identifiers; guaranteed anonymity maximizes honest answers.

While vaccine confidence is a major challenge and remains insufficiently high across almost all countries, it has been rising in Western countries like Canada and the United Kingdom as vaccine rollout ramps up. Whereas willingness to “get the jab” has been consistently high in pandemic-ravaged Brazil, confidence declined abruptly in the Philippines over most of the first half of 2021.

Last year, RIWI data showed that 31 per cent of respondents in the Philippines were unwilling to take a COVID-19 vaccine. But in January 2021 it peaked at 50 per cent unwilling and averaged 43 per cent between February and May of…

Bart Édes

Author of Learning from Tomorrow: Using Strategic Foresight to Prepare for the Next Big Disruption