A health expert on Friday urged the government to conduct an investigation on the causes of vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines following the decline in the perception of the importance of vaccines for Filipino children.
UNICEF health specialist Dr. Carla Orozco said the causes of vaccine hesitancy must be identified first to address the problem.
“Before we can address it, kailangan we have to dig deep first or investigate on the causes of vaccine hesitancy, kasi ito ba ay because of cultural issues, religious issues, or mayroon bang lingering rumor or misinformation sa community or sa isang province,” she said in the Department of Health (DOH) Kapihan forum.
(Before we can address it, we need to dig deep first or investigate the causes of vaccine hesitancy. Is it because of cultural issues, religious issues, or is there a lingering rumor or misinformation in the community or in a province?)
“Aside from those reasons, is it an issue of malayo kasi ang health center gusto naman sana nila magpabakuna ang layo ng health center so they are hesitant to go there to have their children vaccinated? So it can be also an issue of access and baka poverty wala silang pamasahe and all,” she added.
(Aside from those reasons, is it an issue of distance because the health center is far away from the health center so they are hesitant to go there to have their children vaccinated? So it can also be an issue of access and maybe poverty because they don't have money for fare and transport.)
According to a UNICEF report, the perception of the importance of vaccines for children declined by 25% in the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Philippines has one million zero dose children, the second highest in East Asia and the Pacific Region, and the fifth highest globally,” the United Nations children's agency said.
Meanwhile, at least 67 million children worldwide missed out on vaccinations between 2019 and 2021, with vaccination coverage levels decreasing in 112 countries.
Orozco said the DOH can also support the community through an intervention and implementation of programs based on the reasons or situations in a community.
She also highlighted the importance to train and capacitate healthcare workers and community volunteers on the right information to influence the residents on immunization.
“Yung vaccine hesitancy, hindi lang because of misinformation and rumors, but also the problem in access so kailangan din magtulung-tulungan. The government and [other] partners, [must] improve access so that would mean investing in additional human resources lalo na sa malalayo and even in urban poor communities. It is also surprising minsan kulang din 'yung access nila, so increase human resource and immunization sessions,” she added.
(The vaccine hesitancy is not only because of misinformation and rumors, but also the problem in access so it is also necessary to work together. The government and other partners must improve access so that would mean investing in additional human resources especially in remote and even in urban poor communities. It is also surprising that sometimes they lack access, so increase human resource and immunization sessions.)
Meanwhile, Dr. Anna Ong Lim, chief of the DOH's Technical Advisory Group Pediatric Infectious Diseases, also echoed the recommendations of Orozco, adding the need for a widespread educational campaign to combat misinformation.
“Dagdagan natin ng ibayong educational campaign at pagpapakita ng ating magandang intensyon sa mga pamilya dahil nandoon din 'yung issue ng trust. 'Pag may tiwala ang ating mga communities sa ating service providers hindi mahirap tanggapin ang mga bakunang inaalok natin para sa proteksyon ng kanilang anak,” she said.
(Let us increase our educational campaigns and show our good intentions to families because there is also the trust issue. If our communities have trust in our service providers, it will not be difficult to accept the vaccines we offer for the protection of their children.)
The DOH on Thursday kicked off a nationwide supplemental immunization campaign to vaccinate children against measles, rubella, and polio.
During the launch at San Juan City, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire underscored the importance of the “Chikiting Ligtas 2023” in informing and encouraging Filipino children to get vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases that continue to exist in the country.
The department targets to vaccinate at least 9.5 million children from nine to 59 months old against measles, while 11 million children from zero to 59 months old will also be vaccinated against polio.—AOL, GMA Integrated News