Vaccine hesitancy also observed among provincial barangay officials
MANILA, Philippines — While village officials nationwide have been tasked to keep tabs on unvaccinated residents in their barangays, some of them remain unwilling to get the COVID-19 vaccine themselves.
Jonathan Malaya, spokesperson for the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), said on Sunday that the myths of turning into zombies once inoculated or that the jabs were “satanic” kept vaccine hesitancy alive mostly in the provinces.
Malaya told the Inquirer that during his rounds of vaccination hubs nationwide, he has observed vaccine hesitancy among village officials.
“[The DILG] does not have that data yet … There are a number of barangay officials [who do not want to be inoculated],” he said.
In a radio interview on Sunday, the DILG spokesperson said that during the national vaccine days last month, he was tasked to do the rounds in several provinces and discovered that there were barangay officials who really refused to be vaccinated.
Malaya said that the common reason given by unvaccinated folk in the provinces was they were afraid of turning into zombies.
“We may think nobody really believes that but I’ve heard of that so many times in Quezon, Bicol, wherever I went,” he said.
“The other reason is religious belief. There are members of religious congregations that have been describing vaccination as demonic or satanic,” he said.
He said the DILG and other government agencies had been making efforts in debunking the baseless fears.
“We’ve been telling them that the government would not do anything that would bring harm to citizens. We tell them that these myths are baseless because the government would not want to endanger them,” Malaya said.
Meanwhile, he said that there was no need for the DILG to reiterate President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to village chiefs on confining unvaccinated persons in their homes since the order came directly from the President and a number of local governments have come up with ordinances on the matter.
Malaya clarified that while most barangays and the Philippine National Police have begun enforcing the directive, the arrest of an unvaccinated person flouting the restriction was a last resort.
But instead of “punitive” measures, Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday said the administration should have thought of “creative ways” to incentivize vaccination following the sudden spike in the COVID-19 cases in the country.
“It’s not a crime to be unvaccinated. I will go back to my belief that we should give incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated,” she said in her weekly radio program.
“For many months now, we have had lots of supply of vaccines, so we should have thought of more creative ways to incentivize vaccination,” she added.
Last year, Robredo’s office gave P500 fuel subsidy, grocery packs, and face masks, among others, to delivery riders who got vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It should be well thought of and not immediately be punitive that if you do not get vaccinated, you will be arrested,” she said, adding that Mr. Duterte’s response should be more of “positive reinforcement.”
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Saturday said that the order of Duterte to arrest those unvaccinated against COVID-19 might be unconstitutional.
“Presently, there is no law that makes being unvaccinated a crime, nor is there any law that would satisfy the Constitutional provision on curtailing freedom of movement,” Jacqueline Ann de Guia, spokesperson for the CHR, said in a statement.