In Quezon, fear of coronavirus shots still grips residents
LUCENA CITY — A large number of residents in Quezon province are reluctant to get inoculated for COVID-19 because of the controversy created by the anti-dengue vaccination program of the Department of Health (DOH), officials here said.
Gov. Danilo Suarez revealed that residents were hesitant to be vaccinated mainly because of the Dengvaxia scare, with the vaccine blamed for several deaths even if the DOH said it was not the cause of their demise.
“In about 200 people interviewed, only five are willing to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine,” the governor lamented.
Mayors Roderick Alcala of Lucena City and Webster Letargo of Gumaca town also said that most of their residents were afraid of the COVID-19 vaccine due to the controversy generated by Dengvaxia.
“We have to combat that haunting fear of the public before the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Dengvaxia memory is scaring them,” Alcala said in a phone interview.
Letargo revealed that several of his town’s senior citizens, who are among the priority recipients of the vaccine, were afraid to get inoculated.
“They told me that they are willing to pass their slots to others. When I pressed them for the reasons, it’s because of the Dengvaxia scare,” Letargo said in a separate phone interview.
Regain public trust
Alcala urged the national government to conduct massive information and education campaign to regain public trust on the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The urgent task now is how to erase that vaccine fear,” he said.
Suarez said the provincial government is ready to allocate funds to procure the COVID-19 vaccines but the DOH should first “ensure that the vaccine is safe and effective before approving its use. “
“Many are hoping that the vaccine will be the end of (COVID-19). However, let us not hurry at the expense of safety,” he added.
More than 830,000 individuals, including children, were vaccinated with Dengvaxia under the national anti-dengue vaccination program during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
However, things went awry when Sanofi Pasteur, the Dengvaxia maker, admitted that the vaccine might cause increased risk of hospitalization for dengue patients and severe infection on individuals who had not been previously infected by the dengue virus.
The vaccine was pulled out from the market in December 2017, during which time the Public Attorney’s Office conducted its own investigation on several deaths blamed on Dengvaxia. —DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.
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