"Everything appears to be guesswork."
Twin surveys - Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations – came out recently with sentiments and attitudes of people on the expected roll out of several brands of vaccines that are expected to cure the coronavirus pandemic in the Philippines. The survey findings should alarm the government itself and its managers designated to ensure the safety and health of the nation.
Pulse Asia on its part reported that in a survey from November to December last year, a significant number of Filipino citizens are not inclined to get a COVID-19 vaccine, principally because of safety concerns. Santa Banana, only a third of 2,400 Filipino adults polled said they are willing to be vaccinated. Among those who don’t want to get the vaccine, 84 percent those polled said they were not sure of their safety.
The SWS, on the other hand, showed that 91 percent of the 1,500 adults surveyed were worried about being infected with the coronavirus. This was up from 85 percent in September.
The level of confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines and the public’s safety fears come as a big challenge for the government’s current efforts to put together a practical and effective vaccine acquisition and vaccine program.
Surprisingly, my gulay, in the aftermath of these twin surveys, the government and its managers have not done anything to address these concerns. These concerns all boil down to faith and trust in the government.
To my mind, these twin surveys boil down to a lot distrust, faith and confidence on what the Duterte government and its managers will do when the much-awaited vaccines are rolled out.
Events that have been happening are largely the reason why there’s too much distrust and erosion of confidence on what can happen once the vaccines arrive and roll out. First, there were reports that “somebody dropped the ball” on the much-anticipated rollout of the US Pfizer vaccines which were expected to arrive this month. Then came the scandal of the smuggling of vaccines from China and its administration to a very select few, particularly to the Presidential Security Group (PSG), some unnamed sectors of the military, and some members of the Cabinet despite announcements that the health workers and frontliners, the very poor and indigents, sick and elders would be prioritized. President Duterte made everything much worse when he threatened the Senate not to make Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante, chief of the PSG, to appear in a scheduled probe on the entry of the Sinovac vaccines to our country.
In the wake of this, the Senate should also focus its attention to the utter failure of intelligence in the wake of revelation of Chinese civic leader Teresita Ang See that some 100,000 Chinese expatriates, many of them workers at POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators) have already been vaccinated with the Chinese vaccine.
And we wonder why many Filipinos hardly have any confidence in vaccines.
First, there is supposed to be a vaccine czar to tell us what to expect. Where does he come in in the wake of all these reports? Yes, he has been telling us that some vaccines can be expected this coming month by the government. In the wake of reports that local government units (city mayors) are making deals with vaccine makers that their residents will be vaccinated, how does vaccine czar Carlito Galvez fit in them, Santa Banana, there is definitely a lack of a clear roadmap that can inspire us to readily be vaccinated in an effort to end this COVID-19 pandemic once and for all!
The Duterte government must know that the public cannot easily be weaned from their dread of the virus. They will not trust readily news of a miracle cure.
Still, this can be corrected and reversed through a determined, sustained communication and information campaign. From the start, I have been urging the government on education and information campaigns for the people that the government has foremost in mind for the safety and health of the nation. The Duterte government, however, has chosen to remain blind and deaf to this suggestion.
There is of course, the 2017 scandal of the Dengvaxia vaccine of the French company Sanofi Pasteur where some 800,000 public schoolchildren were vaccinated with an untested Dengue vaccine. To my mind, that is the biggest factor why many Filipino adults are wary about vaccines.
And now Malacanang has announced that we have to be content with Sinovac from China this coming February, giving us no choice.
All these developments add to the perception that the government and its managers are not doing all they could to protect Filipinos from the dreaded virus.
There is no roadmap yet on the rollout of vaccines. Everything, as I see it, is guesswork.
I am not blaming President Duterte for the many fears and doubts of Filipino adults about the vaccine rollout. Rather, I blame other people, like vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, the Department of Health and even the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force).
The World Health Organization, for its part, has warned countries about the possible side effects of the vaccines without naming which one. This is another problem, my gulay!
Ask any medical practitioner on vaccines, and he’ll tell you that vaccine reactions are different in people. That’s why there's a need for more education and information on vaccines.