Patient groups launch campaign to increase vaccination uptake, decrease hesitancy

Published June 8, 2021, 8:48 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

In a bid to increase vaccination uptake, decrease hesitancy and help curb the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO) on Tuesday, June 8, launched an information and education advocacy campaign.

‘Bakuna, Now Na campaign’ is an information and education advocacy to increase vaccine acceptance. (Photo from PAPO)

Representing 38 patient groups in the country, PAPO launched the “Bakuna, Now Na” campaign in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH) and supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA).

The “Bakuna, Now Na campaign” is an information and education advocacy to increase vaccine acceptance. The patient-led campaign also aims to support efforts towards vaccine equity through various initiatives and collaborations with governments, manufacturers and the COVAX facility among other platforms.

PAPO President Ma. Fatima Lorenzo said that the pandemic has made Filipino patients more vulnerable to sickness and hardships.

Thus, PAPO urged all Filipinos, including patients and their families, to “get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect ourselves and others from this potentially life-threatening illness.”

The group also expressed support initiatives to “urgently address vaccine inequity and secure vaccine access for Filipinos, including those belonging to priority sectors like patients.”

PAPO also issued a Unity Statement with partner groups urging Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, PAPO Treasurer and Campaign Project Lead Karen Alparce-Villanueva explained that the “Bakuna, Now Na” is a campaign for Filipino patients and by Filipino patients.

“We aspire that through this campaign, we would help in informing the patients and the public that vaccines are safe and effective having gone through regulatory approvals and scientific research,” she said. “We are stronger and healthier together, which is why we are calling on everyone to get vaccinated,” she added.

Citing a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, PAPO noted that only “three out of 10 Filipinos are willing to be vaccinated even if they were free and approved” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The group noted that efforts are also underway to identify barriers for the non-vaccination of a number of senior citizens and persons with comorbidities or those belonging to the A2 and A3 priority sectors, respectively.

Given the vast number of Filipinos who are hesitant to get vaccinated, PAPO recognized the necessity to address the people’s concerns through the “Bakuna, Now Na” advocacy.

The said campaign will center on frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines and “dispel myths with verified medical facts.”

PAPO noted that the campaign is also an effort to “translate complicated medical terms into easy-to-digest content that will help educate the public.”

The initiative was welcomed by DOH and DOST.

Patient groups in the country launched the ‘Bakuna, Now Na’ (Photo from PAPO)

DOH-Health Promotions Bureau Director Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho, who was also present during the virtual launch, said that department is pleased to partner PAPO in its effort to increase vaccine confidence and vaccinate more people as soon as possible.

“We continue to call on patients and our senior citizens to get themselves vaccinated because vaccines are one of the proven ways by which we could prevent this pandemic,” Ho said.

“Vaccines along with the wearing of face masks, hand washing, and physical distancing will help us move forward safely from this pandemic,” she added, noting that “vaccines are safe and effective.”

Dr. Nina Gloriani, chairman of the DOST- Vaccine Expert Panel, also commended the initiative as the advocacy will feature verified information coming from the country’s medical and vaccines experts.

Former Health Secretaries Carmencita Reodica, Esperanza Cabral, Manuel Dayrit, and Janette Garin also expressed support for the campaign.

The “Bakuna, Now Na campaign” is led by PAPO in partnership with the DOH, DOST, PMA, the Philippine Pharmacists Association and 50 other organizations.

Rey Sarmenta, the former Chairman of HAPLOS, the Hemophilia Foundation, shared that got vaccinated because he “wanted to protect his family, and getting vaccinated is his chance to enjoy his life with his loved ones.”

Ara Lanorio, President of the Neurofibromatosis Friends Philippines, also underscored the need for proper education about vaccines as had her initial concerns about the vaccine too before she decided to get vaccinated.