Opposition to Covid-19 vaccine threatens our country’s recovery

Opposition to Covid-19 vaccine threatens our country’s recovery

Greek philosopher Sophocles (496 – 406 BCE)

Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.

— Greek philosopher Sophocles

ALLOW me to greet a good friend and colleague — ITCHIE CABAYAN — a blessed day and happy birthday (March 3) . . . More power and thank you to a tumultuous friendship with the first lady of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Press Corps . . .

THE Duterte administration’s Covid-19 vaccination plans are being undermined by many citizens refusing to be vaccinated, though most of them won’t say it publicly for fear of being taken out of the government’s priority list of vaccinees despite assurances by Malacañang officials that they will not be delisted.

The country’s vaccination program began this week after the arrival of some 600,000 doses of the vaccine developed by the Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech.

Following the vaccines’ arrival on Sunday afternoon, local health authorities quickly claimed that the Chinese vaccine (named CoronaVac) was superior to others aside from having a low side-effect risk—less than one percent—and could be stored relatively easily when compared to the other vaccines, such as the one developed by Pfizer that requires being kept at -70C.

However, people immediately had doubts about CoronaVac while others questioned whether Christian religious ethics were being followed in their manufacture. However, for Filipino Catholics, this shouldn’t be a big issue as Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated, even though the Pfizer and Moderna ones have used cell lines taken from the tissue of aborted fetuses.

That is acceptable if there is no other alternative, the Vatican had earlier declared.

The pope himself showed the way by being inoculated last January 14 (the current year).

But many Filipinos are hesitant despite some government officials volunteering to be the first recipient to show that the vaccine is safe.

President Rodrigo Duterte wants to inoculate over 80 million citizens before the year ends, initially government and health workers, political and religious figures and those considered most vulnerable to the virus. It is hoped that through this herd immunity will be achieved soon and Filipinos can return to normalcy in their lives and full economic recovery would begin.

The government has been criticized for the delays in the procurement of vaccines while many other countries have started their vaccination program much earlier.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 130 countries have yet to obtain a single dose, prompting the Vatican to urge the easing of patent protection and fair distribution of vaccines. Last week Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican permanent observer to the United Nations (UN), warned about the risk of prioritizing vaccines for the richest countries.

However, many of our countrymen, among them even front-liners like nurses and doctors, have turned their backs on the government’s efforts. A recent survey revealed the most common reasons for rejecting the Covid-19 vaccine were due to doubts over safety and effectiveness and religious reasons. Another survey disclosed that more than half of the population did not want to be vaccinated.

This is a worry for the government because such a high number threatens its herd immunity plans and the implementation of economic recovery programs.

Public distrust of the vaccines grew stronger recently when a top politician warned the government might make getting the jab compulsory.

It prompted a Catholic layman and former human rights commissioner to urge the government not to impose vaccinations on people.

The government has invested heavily and has allocated a large sum to fight the pandemic, including about PhP75 billion for the vaccines. It will do whatever it takes to make sure all its efforts bear fruit, even if it means forcing everyone to receive the vaccines and punishing those who resist.

But persecuting people, or even ostracizing them, under a health program can be avoided if more politicians and religious leaders stepped forward and offered more gentle persuasion. Politicians from all sides can promote the advantages of having the vaccination as can religious leaders since they are highly respected figures who exert a great deal of influence.

Finally, President Duterte can do a lot of convincing for more Filipinos to avail themselves the vaccines by allowing his children—namely, Davao City mayor and vice mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and Sebastian Duterte, respectively, Davao City District I representative Paolo Duterte and youngest daughter Veronica—to get inoculated as proof that all the vaccines being procured by the government are safe and effective as they claim. (AI/MTVN)

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