Survey: Nearly 50% of Pinoys shun vaccine
MANILA, Philippines — While the government is negotiating hard with pharmaceutical companies to procure vaccines to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, Joy Requiso does not see herself signing up to get the shots, even if they are free.
She is among nearly 50 percent of Filipinos who, according to a recent survey, are unwilling to get inoculated for COVID-19 mainly due to concerns about the safety of the vaccines. According to the poll, others believe vaccines are not needed to cure the severe respiratory disease, or may not be free and expensive.
Requiso, a 29-year-old engineer, said she was “afraid of the risks and side effects” of any vaccine.
“There’s a low chance of [me] acquiring the virus (since I am mostly at home), but getting shots is more risky and we are still not sure of its effects,” she told the Inquirer on Thursday.
“Like what happened with Dengvaxia. This vaccine was carefully and thoroughly studied and approved but later it turned out, there were side effects,” Requiso said.
The dengue vaccine was banned in late 2017 by the government after the manufacturer disclosed that it could cause severe symptoms in people who had previous exposure to the virus.
Opting for self-care
A three-decadeslong Nazarene devotee, Odelio Parada also cited the Dengvaxia fiasco for refusing to be inoculated, including against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 now wreaking havoc across the globe.
Instead of vaccination, Parada said he would rather invest in self-care and boosting his immune system and strictly following health and safety measures to minimize the risk of acquiring the coronavirus.
Naya de Castro, a teacher in Camarines Sur, said she and her family were interested in getting inoculated but were not in a hurry. She said they would wait for reports of any adverse effects from the shots.
Taguig City police chief, Col. Celso Rodriguez, said he and the 661 officers under him were “more than willing” to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“If we get the vaccine, we will feel secure and at peace that we will not acquire or pass on the virus to to other people. We are front-liners and we need the vaccine,” he said, adding that any “side effects” could be managed with medicines.
Another teacher, Yoshiki Kurata, a professor at Technological Institute of the Philippines, said he was not yet convinced of the reported efficacy rates of the candidate vaccines for COVID-19.
“Pfizer and Moderna showed over 90-percent efficacy rate, yet, it is just tested on a sample basis. [People’s bodies have] different responses to the vaccine,” he said.
Kurata said he was “still hesitant” in getting vaccinated due to unknown possible “adverse effects.”
“It is said that it’s preventing us from acquiring COVID. However, what pops to my mind is the Dengvaxia issue,” he added.
Kurata, 28, said he also could not trust the “risky” stand of the government of acquiring vaccines made in China, citing the comparatively lower efficacy rates and the higher price tags of the two candidate Chinese vaccines.
Like the others, hotel manager Hazel Santos said she did not sign up online for the free vaccine offered by the Manila City government, which had allotted P250 million to inoculate residents of the capital.
“I will let those [on] the priority list get the vaccine first. Also, I am still waiting for further studies regarding the side effects of the vaccine, probably after a year,” Santos said.
“Also, I cannot imagine myself taking it since I am not yet a senior citizen. I still have faith in my immune system and rely on God’s covering. I’m still in my 20s,” she said.
Highest in Visayas
These were the dominant sentiments regarding the vaccine for COVID-19 expressed by 2,400 adult Filipinos polled on Nov. 23, 2020 to Dec. 2, 2020, by Pulse Asia Inc.
The survey said 95 percent of Filipinos were aware of the development of the vaccines, but only 32 percent were willing to be inoculated and 47 percent were not. The remaining 21 percent were undecided.
Among those who refused to be vaccinated, 84 percent cited the safety of the vaccines as their reason. The others believe vaccines were not needed to fight COVID-19, or they might not be free or may be expensive.
The Visayas had the highest percentage of Filipinos unwilling to get vaccinated (55 percent), followed by Mindanao (48 percent), Luzon outside Metro Manila (46 percent) and Metro Manila (41 percent).
By socioeconomic class, a majority (56 percent) of Class E were not inclined to get vaccinated, followed by 46 percent of Class D and 43 percent of Class ABC.
The survey had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2 percentage points. Subnational estimates in each of the geographic areas (Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.
A survey by Social Weather Stations (SWS) in September last year showed that majority of Filipinos (66 percent) were willing to get inoculated and 31 percent were unwilling. Public trust and confidence in vaccines waned following the Dengvaxia controversy.
Considered the world’s first vaccine against dengue, Dengvaxia was blamed for the deaths of 14 children who received the shots. But a clinical study by the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) later showed that only three of them died due to dengue shock syndrome and two of them possibly from vaccine failure.
The experience with Dengvaxia along with misinformation about vaccines and the low awareness of the need for inoculations affected the government’s immunization drive.
The immunization campaign of the Department of Health (DOH) saw a steep decline after many parents refused vaccinations for their children.
In early 2019, the vaccination rate dropped to 40 percent from 60 percent a year before. The ideal immunization coverage for Filipino children is 85 percent to 90 percent, according to the DOH. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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