Imee: High Jab Hesitancy Is The Problem, Not Vaccine Budget

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Senator Imee Marcos has called on the government for clearer strategies that will increase vaccine acceptance and immunity against Covid-19 to speed up the country’s economic recovery.

“We have the money for vaccines. But vaccination hesitancy remains a challenge and may lead to a greater wastage of vaccines and government funds than the incidence of poor cold storage. Without herd immunity, economic recovery will be choppy,” Marcos said.

“To solve this, the government needs to determine where it should conduct more aggressive information campaigns which are tailored to the language, unique customs and belief systems of the local government unit concerned. For instance, an emphasis that vaccines are halal may be needed in the BARMM, or that a certain vaccine has already been administered in Muslim countries,” Marcos explained.

The Senate economic affairs committee chairman said more Filipinos still need to be convinced to take the jab, citing that the last national survey showed little improvement in the vaccination hesitancy rate of close to 50 percent.

Marcos also urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to “draw up a Plan B, in case vaccine suppliers renege on their commitments to the Philippines this year.”

The IATF has faced delays in its scheduled procurement of vaccines from global pharmaceutical firms and the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility due to hoarding and delivery disputes among vaccine-manufacturing nations.

A recent pledge by seven of the world’s richest democracies to supply at least a billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to poor countries next year is a ray of light amid the staggered arrival of more vaccines, Marcos said.

“Many Western nations are playing catch-up after China’s headstart in vaccine diplomacy,” Marcos said of the G7 comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Regions, and the United Kingdom.

“The G7 pledge for 2022 implies that vaccines we are buying this year can be produced and delivered. But the IATF must constantly follow up on foreign commitments to preempt and remedy any more delays in the original timeline to fully vaccinate 70% of Filipinos,” Marcos explained.

Marcos, who also chairs the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, added that increasing vaccination acceptance and immunity could help voter registration pick up its pace, “so that next year’s elections truly reflect who we want to lead us through this health crisis towards economic recovery.”