Philippine government urges citizens to get Covid-19 vaccine amid safety concerns

The Philippines has an uphill struggle to convince parents to vaccinate their children after child deaths in 2017 allegedly linked to a dengue immunisation programme.
The Philippines has an uphill struggle to convince parents to vaccinate their children after child deaths in 2017 allegedly linked to a dengue immunisation programme.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (XINHUA) - The Philippines' Department of Health on Friday (Jan 8) urged Filipinos to get the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is available, saying the vaccines are safe.

"Let me just assure you that the government will ensure that the vaccines that will come in the country will be safe and efficacious," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told an online briefing. "We are encouraging the public to listen to the government. We will be very transparent in our processes."

The official made the remarks after an independent survey in the Philippines showed that almost half of the respondents said they are not inclined to get a Covid-19 vaccine due to safety concerns.

A national survey by Pulse Asia conducted from Nov 23 to Dec 2, showed only about a third or 32 per cent of the 2,400 Filipinos aged 18 and above surveyed were willing to get inoculated.

"Almost half of the Filipino adults (47 per cent) are not inclined to get the Covid-19 vaccine while the rest (21 per cent) are ambivalent on the matter of being vaccinated or not," the survey said.

The survey cited safety as the leading reason why almost half of the Filipino adults are not willing to get vaccinated.

Other reasons cited include the cost of the vaccine and whether or not vaccination is required to combat Covid-19.

Ms Vergeire said the vaccines will pass through the regulatory process of the Philippines and other countries.

"We have strengthened our regulatory process wherein we have added additional layers for safeguards," she said, adding that the government has created expert panels that will ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccines for Filipinos.

According to the survey, "nearly all Filipino adults" or 94 per cent of the respondents are concerned about contracting Covid-19.

The Philippines has an uphill struggle to convince parents to vaccinate their children owing to the lingering fear over a dengue immunisation programme in 2017 with alleged links to child deaths.

Manila is now negotiating with at least seven vaccine makers, including Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, US vaccine makers Novavax, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, and Russian medical research institute Gamaleya.

Mr Carlito Galvez, the chief implementer of the National Task Force against Covid-19, said the Philippines hopes to buy at least 148 million doses from these manufacturers.

Through the private sector, the Philippines has signed a deal with British-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca for 2.6 million doses of vaccines, of which half will be donated to the government.

The Philippines aims to vaccinate between 50 million to 70 million Filipinos this year, starting with healthcare workers, the elderly and the poor.