By AMALYN ANACIO
MANILA — It has been two months since the Philippine government began its vaccine rollout but the country is far from inoculating at least one percent of the population as public hesitancy on vaccine efficacy and safety remains.
“Some still have apprehensions about Sinovac vaccine efficacy and want AstraZeneca instead,” said Mary Jane Mendajar-Tan, health coordinator of Caritas Novaliches.
In a forum hosted by Citizens urgent response to end Covid-19 (CURE Covid), a coalition of public health advocates, public health experts said Filipinos are still hesitant about the vaccines because of the confusing information regarding their efficacy and fear of its adverse effects.
There were also people that are “brand-specific,” said Jerica Rebustillo of the National Immunization Program of Pasig City.
The rate of vaccine acceptance has changed drastically when Dengvaxia erupted in 2017.
A 2018 study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine revealed that Filipinos’ perception of the importance of vaccines has dropped from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent, its safety and efficacy from 82 to 21 percent, and vaccine confidence from 93 to 32 percent.
Another national survey conducted early this year showed that 61 percent would not get inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine if it was available during the survey period, with concerns on the vaccine’s safety the highest in Metro Manila at 90 percent.
“Until now we still feel the effect of the Dengvaxia issue in terms of the public willingness to take any type of vaccine,” Dasmariñas said during the public briefing.
Where PH stands on vaccine roll-out
Critics said vaccines must be safe, for free, and getting the jab should be voluntary.
Jamie Dasmariñas of Bantay Bakuna said only about 1.9 million Filipinos have received their first dose while a measly 0.4 percent are fully vaccinated.
As it stands, the Philippines has a current rate of about 75,000 vaccinations per day, according to former adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force to Emerging Infectious Diseases Tony Leachon. This, he said, is less than what the National Capital Region alone, which he dubbed as the center of contagion and business epicenter, needs to vaccinate at least nine million out of its 13 million residents to reach its target herd immunity by December. To achieve this target, at least 100,000 doses must be administered daily.
For the entire country, Herdimmunity.ph said the government must increase their current vaccine rollout by at least eight times or about 623,085 doses daily. It added that the country has so far received over 7.79 million vaccines, which can vaccinate 3.5 percent of the country’s population.
Globally, poorer economies are getting a smaller share in the vaccine supply. Health experts attribute this to the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights (TRIPs) in medicine, vaccines, and technologies, which they have asked to be suspended in light of the pandemic.
TRIPs is a World Trade Organization agreement in 1995 that establishes minimum standards for the regulation by national governments of different forms of intellectual property rights including medicine.
Health experts argued that medicines and vaccines should not be included and treated as commodities especially in light of a pandemic. Community doctor Edelina De la Paz of the Health Alliance for Democracy said medicines should not be considered as an ordinary commodity as it is intended for the public good.