Biliran governor dangles cash incentives to increase vaccine acceptance
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — The governor of Biliran is offering cash incentives to towns and villages in the province that can convince 70 percent of their respective population to have themselves vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to Gov. Rogelio Espina, villages will each get P100,000 while towns will each receive P1 million if they manage to comply with his directive.
Espina’s offer was the first from a governor and came amid the people’s reluctance to be inoculated, including those in the medical profession, particularly with vaccines manufactured in China.
In the City of San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan province, for example, only about 30 percent of the 1,700 employees of the city government were initially willing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus disease, according to local officials.
Many local governments across the country also face the same resistance to inoculation, just as they were moving forward to secure the life-saving shots and roll out their respective vaccination plan.
Espina’s move was seen to encourage more people to have themselves vaccinated in a bid to achieve herd immunity, where the population can be protected from the virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.
The governor said the cash incentives would be taken from the savings of the provincial government and will be distributed in December 2021.
Biliran, with a population of more than 171,000, has eight towns composed of Almeria, Biliran, Cabucgayan, Caibiran, Culaba, Kawayan, Maripipi and Naval, its provincial capital. It has 132 barangays.
As of Sunday, at least 58,192 individuals have expressed intent to be vaccinated, according to the Provincial Health Office.
This included front-line health workers, senior citizens, eligible indigents and uniformed personnel.
In Bulacan, San Jose Del Monte Mayor Arthur Robes said they would intensify their information drive to convince government front-liners to receive the vaccines.
“We are in government service. We talk and deal with people every day so it is a must for us,” Robes said.
Robes said over 500 respondents in the survey, which was held from December 2020 to January this year, said they doubted the vaccines’ efficacy regardless of the brand.
The mayor said the respondents’ apprehension could be based on reports abroad that showed some side effects of the vaccines.
But Robes asked the city government workers, including nonregular employees, to have themselves vaccinated to help the city achieve herd immunity.
Boost public confidence
“If the vaccine proves fatal after a year, then we all die together. [If we fear that], then we must abandon our jobs today and look for another job,” Robes said.
The mayor said he volunteered to get vaccinated first to boost the public’s confidence.
In the City of Malolos, only 20 percent of the city employees were willing to undergo vaccination based on the data gathered by the COVID-19 task force in January, according to Councilor Edgardo Domingo.
Domingo, who chairs the city council’s health committee, said they have also started an extensive information dissemination drive to encourage more government workers to get vaccinated.
Gov. Daniel Fernando has ordered a massive education campaign in the 21 towns and three cities since last week to convince all qualified residents to join the local vaccination program.
He said about 800 health workers and medical front-liners from Bulacan Medical Center would be part of the first batch of the vaccine recipients.
The province has allotted a P130-million augmentation fund to support the national government’s vaccination of 2.5 million residents, or 70 percent of its population of 3.2 million.
—WITH REPORTS FROM CARMELA REYES-ESTROPE INQ
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