Public Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines

Public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines continues be a serious concern in the Philippines, even as the daily number of infections continue to rise following a spike in late March 2021 due to the entry of more transmissible variants. Vaccine hesitancy can be attributed to several factors such as the relatively short clinical trial periods prior to vaccine rollout, varying vaccine efficacies of several brands and incidents where severe side effects (e.g., blood clotting) were experienced.

Upon the arrival of the initial 193,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines this month, crowds that turned up at Pfizer vaccination sites is also an indication that there is also a vaccine bias among many Filipinos. Chinese-produced Sinovac vaccines have been mostly used in various LGU vaccination sites, which have scientifically lower efficacy rates as compared to other reputable vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, among others. However, initial studies show that all vaccines offer about 100% protection against severe cases of COVID-19.

Poor public information and education is the main culprit to the hesitation and resistance of some Filipinos to be inoculated. People are unable to process and understand that all vaccine brands can save lives even as their efficacy levels differ. People do not also realize the difficulty of obtaining US-made vaccines due to its demand in more developed countries. 

The mandated agencies tasked to crafting and launching Information and Education Campaigns seem to have failed to come across Filipinos that all vaccines are lifesaving. Most of the personalities in these agencies are consumed with answering criticisms on the government's response and branding the opposition as disruptive, instead of focusing their energies and resources on developing creative and compelling messages that would enthuse people to be vaccinated. In the first place, their tremendous media and publicity work produced 16 million votes in the 2016 Presidential Elections. It appears that the energies they exhaust towards winning an election and political preservation is more important than saving lives of many Filipinos.

We must also admit that we live in a world where the privileged countries have more access to critical resources than developing countries. While the COVAX facility is in place to ensure equitable access to vaccines especially to poor countries, the powers-that-be possess the global political might to wrest over millions of vaccines for the benefit of their citizens. Hence, our opportunity to have a choice of vaccines is limited to what is accessible and available.

This is not to say that Filipinos do not have the right to refuse the brand of vaccine they will be inoculated with. The choice to be vaccinated, however, impacts the lives of our families, relatives, workmates, and those whom we regularly come across with on a daily/frequent basis. While we are not obligated or required by law to be vaccinated, we should be socially and morally compelled to be inoculated.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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