The long wait is over when different COVID-19 vaccines were finally available in the market after series of studies and trials. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in many countries around the world, leaders cling their hope to vaccines. The Philippines is among those countries that have access to vaccines. Some were purchased and some were donated by other countries specifically China. However, Filipinos consider vaccination as something sinister, as if it is their easier passport to their deathbed. According to a survey conducted by OCTA, only 19% of adult Filipinos are willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 from which Luzon has the highest percentage of those who do not want to take the risk.
We must look under the hood of the most important information about the COVID-19 vaccine for the people to be enlightened and to finally answer the life-saver question: “Should we get vaccinated?”
Why there are still anti-vaxxers amidst pandemic?
Let us have a recap on why there are still anti-vaxxers in the country and how things are getting pretty serious. It is important to identify the culprits to come up with possible solutions on how to resolve this dilemma. It is also a must for us to be informed most especially nowadays when many lives of people are at risk due to the dark age of fake news and misinformation.
1. The Dengvaxia vaccine fiasco
The Filipinos’ hesitancy to vaccine rooted in the controversial mass immunization program of the governmentlast 2016 wherein around 8,000 students from public schools who did not have dengue infection were vaccinated by Dengvaxia. Parents were horrified when Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of the said vaccine, announced that the partially studied vaccine could worsen the health of those who did not have dengue before. This threw the public into clamor but no one is willing to be held accountable for this horrendous mistake that put the lives of many children in a dicey situation.
2. The loss of public trust
This careless move scarred public trust which makes people hesitate to trust the government once again. What is worse is that many Filipinos totally lose their trust and this worsened the public health crisis in the country. In 2019, the resurgence of the measles census alarmed the Department of Health and hospitals as 1,240 measles cases were reported in January 2019 alone. This shows that this public dilemma is getting out of hand as many parents are still unwilling to rely on vaccines even today. Even adults who are supposed to get COVID vaccines are also reluctant to receive it even for free.
3. The insufficient information dissemination
One of the reasons why Filipinos are hesitant to be vaccinated is because they are clueless about what is in the vaccine. Of course, due to safety concerns, people will not allow something to be injected into their bodies without actually knowing what contains the vaccine. We cannot blame the people if they are still haunted by the terror brought by Dengvaxia. What should be done is wide information dissemination through media, posters, and even from the official statements of reliable medical professionals to justify truths or debunk myths about vaccines.
4. The widespread of fake news
Many Filipinos, not just the oldies, are being held back to receive the vaccine due to pervasive false claims and misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. What’s funny, or rather maybe alarming is that some people actually fall for the claim that the COVID-19 vaccine turns humans into zombies. But wait, there’s more. Here are other misinformation and unjustified claims about the COVID-19 vaccine.
- FALSE: COVID-19 vaccine alters human DNA. Genetic modification required the insertion of foreign DNA into the nucleus and it is not possible through vaccine so THERE IS NO WAY IT CAN GENETICALLY MODIFY HUMAN DNA.
- UNJUSTIFIED: COVID-19 vaccine can lead to death. THERE IS NO STUDY PROVING THAT COVID-19 VACCINE CAN CAUSE DEATH and many people who received the vaccine are still perfectly fine.
- MISLEADING: COVID-19 vaccine causes health complications. Many statements claim that the vaccine could cause health complications and side effects such as muscle ache, dizziness, fever, fatigue, joint pain, and headache. WELL, THESE ARE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT BECAUSE THESE ARE NORMAL SIDE EFFECTS THAT YOU MUST EXPECT AFTER THE VACCINATION. The side effects last for days and these are indicators that your body is building protection.
Should we get vaccinated? THE ANSWER IS SIMPLY YES!
The public health crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic badly affects the lives of people around the world. Economic recession, rising death tolls, national budget, and clogged hospitals are some of the major problems of the government. Added to these is being challenged to curb the spread of the virus when many Filipinos refuse to receive the vaccine due to hesitations and safety concerns. Due to the mentioned reasons on why vaccine hesitancy is still a major problem in the country, the government has not redeemed yet the public trust and this must be urgently addressed before it gives birth to another crisis.
However, we must keep in mind that vaccines are FDA approved and through series of clinical trials, they are proven safe and effective. Side effects are just normal just like what you get from medicines that are prescribed by your doctors. Here are some facts to convince you to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot if there once there’s enough supply soon.
- It protects you and the people around you. It is just simple logic. When you get vaccinated, there is a lower risk that you might get infected by the virus, and having a lower risk means you are not likely to infect people around you, and if there will be less infected, then the number of positive cases would decrease.
- Rapid development did not comprise its effectiveness. Vaccines usually take years before being developed but not the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet, the rapid development does not affect the quality of the vaccines. The reasons why there are delays in the development is because of the challenges when it comes to trial participants and funds but since this is a global emergency, the development of the COVID-19 vaccine was given utmost priority.
- Vaccines are FDA approved. Although the vaccines were developed within a short period, they received a thumbs up from FDA. The vaccine must be at least 50% effective to get emergency use approval. The leading vaccines with about 95% effectiveness are Pfizer and Moderna. Other vaccines that are FDA-approved in the Philippines are Sinovac and AstraZeneca. As of this writing, the Philippines inked a supply agreement of 30 million doses of vaccines developed by American firm Novavax. The Philippine FDA is yet to approve the vaccine for emergency use.
- Vaccines underwent series of rigorous and successful clinical trials. The whole world is keeping a close watch on the development of COVID-19 vaccines and scientists assure that they are creating safe and effective vaccines. Imagine the whole world watching and the pressure they are putting on vaccine developers. Vaccines will only be approved if they meet the efficacy criteria given by FDA.
- There is close monitoring of possible adverse effects to those who receive a shot. The assurance of the safety and efficacy of the vaccines does not end with FDA emergency use approval. There is always a follow-up with those who receive the vaccination to pacify the risks that could potentially exist after a few days or weeks.
- You could contribute to the solution against the pandemic. You might be thinking that getting vaccinated is just something not to brag about but as a common Filipino citizen, it could be considered as a big contribution already. Refusing to get a shot also means you are adding to the number of possible casualties. As Filipinos, it is also our responsibility to be part of the solution.
It is like we are in a silent war against the unseen enemy. We got stirred by the tragic death of friends, families, and even the people we randomly know. We never know how long we would be safe. We must keep in mind that for us to see a glimmer of hope while here we are, sunk into a lot of uncertainties and doubt, we must brave our way to get away from the exhausting routine of practicing social distancing and wearing a mask. It’s been a year since we were locked down not just in our home and community, but also in our own qualms and fear. Getting vaccinated is worth the risk if it would mean going back to the life we once had when people are unmasked and could safely have handshakes and warm hugs.