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‘Start vaccine trust drive’

The Philippines has become the biggest vaccine-hesitant country in this part of the world

Gabbie Parlade

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It’s not the availability or rollout of the anti-COVID vaccine, nor the cold storage handling and efficacy of the jab, not even whether we have funds to purchase enough doses that should concern us as we expect to triumph against the coronavirus.

It’s the people’s trust in the vaccine that the government should gain first.

The public should not be hesitant in welcoming the opportunity to have themselves inoculated, but the government must fire off a wider vaccine information campaign to address doubts on medicines caused by an earlier controversy that involved yet another treatment for another disease.

This was aired on Tuesday by Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccines (PFV), who said an information drive is essential as it can affect the number of people whom the government can immunize.

Bravo emphasized that this is needed more than ever, especially after the public had lost trust in vaccines due to the controversy caused by Dengvaxia, which is blamed for the death of a number of young people said to have been administered with the anti-dengue shot.

The Dengvaxia controversy, Bravo said, had an impact on vaccines for other diseases and may affect the government’s drive to have 85 percent of the country’s more than 100 million population to achieve herd immunity.

“We need to have a wider campaign to improve vaccine confidence. We know that after that shocking controversy in (2017), the Philippines has become the biggest vaccine-hesitant country in this part of the world,” Bravo stated.

“And this is really impacting on all the vaccine trials that we are doing on this COVID pandemic,” she added.

Bravo also explained that if the benefits of vaccines are not properly explained, a misunderstanding poses a risk to people’s health.

She urged help from media outlets, local government units, and government agencies to bring trust in the COVID medicine even before a trial is conducted in the country.

“I do hope that everybody will be able to help and cooperate in informing the people that we do need to trust the vaccines and the experts and the scientists and all those who want to do good for the public because otherwise, it could also be chaotic,” she stressed.

She assured the public that the safety and efficacy of the still unavailable vaccines will be thoroughly checked before rollout.

“If a vaccine is made available to the public, the safety and efficacy of this vaccine have been proven. This is what people should really understand, that no government — I doubt if any government — will want anything that harms its people,” she said.

Bravo said the acceptable efficacy rate for any type of disease should depend on the disease burden or the number of people that die of the disease.

“When the disease burden is so high, your vaccine should actually be proportional to that emerging burden,” she said, noting that COVID-19 is at a high rate with over 63 million deaths worldwide.

“We still do not know how long the vaccine could protect or stimulate the immune response. How long the protection of that vaccine would be. It could be just six months, it could be for one year,” she said.

Earlier Vaccine Czar and National Task Force Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government’s goal is to immunize around 75 to 80 percent of the population.

Local trials that may be conducted are those from AstraZeneca, Sinovac Biotech, and Clover Pharmaceuticals, among others.

Aside from this, the Philippines is also preparing for the World Health Organization solidarity trial for vaccines this month.

As of Monday afternoon, the Philippines has exceeded the 431,000-mark of infected individuals with active cases at 24,580.

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