The government’s mass vaccination program against COVID-19 faces a major snag if it turns a blind eye to the high rate of hesitancy among Filipinos, Senator Imee R. Marcos said on Monday.
“First order of business is to convince Filipinos to get vaccinated. Let’s make the best use of this endless vaccine delay and persuade our people, for their health and the safety of their family and friends, that they should get inoculated as quickly as possible with any FDA-approved vaccine,” Marcos said.
“There is so much anxiety about side effects which are apparently rare and minimal – when the danger of infection is real and could be fatal. Any vaccination effort will fail with 46 percent to 47 percent of Filipinos skeptical or even against any COVID vaccines. Without a thoroughgoing information campaign preceding it, sayang lang (it will just go to waste)!” she added.
The high rate of vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos attended the arrival Sunday of the country’s first batch of 600,000 doses of Sinovac from China, as calls for more choices arose among health workers who are first in line to take the jab, she pointed out.
“Vaccine hesitancy can complicate the storage and delivery of vaccines, resulting in higher costs or outright wastage,” she explained.
“A systematic registration process nationwide for willing vaccine recipients should already be in place, if the bulk of vaccines does arrive in the third and fourth quarter of this year. This will guide the logistical requirements for transport, delivery and storage in every LGU from Luzon to Mindanao,” Marcos said.
“The public is also at a loss on what benefits they are entitled to in case of injury or death. To elicit a more positive response to vaccination, the government must clarify its indemnification policy and how the P500-million budget for this will be spent,” she added.
Marcos said the government’s information campaign could tap influencers from the health sector to showbiz, adding that the private sector can also be engaged to offer incentives to employees taking the jab, while respecting their freedom of choice.
Vaccine hesitancy is not just a Philippine predicament, Marcos emphasized, citing the higher hesitancy rate of 58 percent in France, based on a survey by leading French newspaper Le Figaro.