Robredo: Clear communication plan should address public's lack of trust in vaccines

Philstar
January 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday sought for a clear communication plan for government's COVID-19 vaccination program after a survey showed nearly half of Filipinos are hesitant to receive the jabs.

Findings by Pulse Asia had revealed that only 32% would get themselves inoculated once vaccines are available, with 84% of those who were unwilling concerned on its safety.

In her weekly radio show, Robredo said that apart from securing doses for the country, the administration should also prioritize getting the public to trust the vaccines.

"[Kung] mas kaunti 'yung gustong magpabakuna hindi natin malalagpasan 'yung krisis na 'to," Robredo said over DZXL. "'Yung availability ng bakuna is one thing pero 'yung willingness ng tao na magpabakuna is another."

(We won't find our way out of this crisis if only a few would be vaccinated. The availability of the jabs is one thing and people's willingness to get it is another.)

Vaccination efforts in the country had been affected in recent years due to fears from a botched dengue vaccination program in 2017. 

It was despite still no established links to date that deaths had resulted from the inoculation of the Dengvaxia.

In Pulse Asia's survey, it was also showed that Class E was the most unwilling to be vaccinated at 56%, with 79% saying their primary reason was its safety, 10% concerned that it may not be free and 9% believing that such is not needed to fight the pandemic.

A separate survey by the OCTA Research team also revealed that only 25% of Metro Manila residents are inclined to be vaccinated, 28% saying they were not, while 47% remain undecided.

Health officials in the past had vowed to boost public confidence on the vaccines, but no progress had so far been reported as concerns prevail that government is late in talks to secure doses amid a global race in getting the jabs.

Robredo has said too that controversies would not help in gaining people's trust in the supposed vaccines, with a warning before that issues could strain inoculation efforts.

The administration over the recent months had figured in a series of such, with its plan to procure 25 million doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac at 50% efficacy rate criticized, as well as the breaking down of negotiations for Pfizer's 10 million doses and the inoculation of the unregulated and smuggled Sinopharm on the president's security. 

The survey was done from late November to early December, even before the said issues surfaced, putting the possibility that the results could go lower with the latest developments.

"Mababa na nga 'yung tiwala [tapos] 'pag may controversies lalo pang bumababa," the vice president said. "Paano kung dumating na maaga 'yung mas mababa 'yung efficacy, paano natin kukumbinsihin 'yung mga kababayan natin na magpabakuna?"

(Public trust on vaccines are already low, and controversies would only bring it down more. If the jabs with lower efficacy rate would arrive earlier, how then would we convince our people to be inoculated?)

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. has long said that the Sinovac could arrive in the country by March, with other jabs by second to later parts of the year. 

Government has also yet to sign any procurement deals with drugmakers, despite last week setting a high goal of vaccinating 50 to 70 million in 2021 alone.

The country's No. 2 also took a swipe on the Sinopharm incident involving President Rodrigo Duterte's security, saying officials should instead be leading to allay public doubts instead of stoking them.

"Mahalaga 'yung mga leader natin 'yung nagpapakita na walang dapat ikatakot sa bakuna, hindi 'yung patago," Robredo said. "'Pag patago marami pang kaakibat na kuwento na hindi nakatutulong. Mas lalong magdududa 'yung tao, mas lalong nawawala ng tiwala."

(It's important that are leaders are the ones showing that there is no need for fear vaccines and not doing it behind everyone's backs. If you do it discreetly, it would only spur speculations that would not help. People would doubt more and lose trust.)

The chances of holding someone responsible over the administration's widely criticized move have grown smaller and smaller over the weeks. 

This after Palace's repeated attempts to bury the incident and the president essentially exonerating his men and disallowing them to appear before a proposed congressional probe. — Christian Deiparine


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