By Corina Oliquino

MANILA — Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Francisco Duque III said, “We will try our best to convince the President to perhaps publicly allow himself to be vaccinated but we will respect his ultimate decision, whatever it is” when asked by Sen. Nancy Binay during a hearing. 

Earlier, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Duterte will follow the example of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II who was privately vaccinated along with her husband Prince Philip as announced by Buckingham Palace.

“That’s his personal decision, and I don’t think he has to explain,” Roque said at a press briefing on Thursday, January 21. 

Early January, Duterte said he will be the last to get inoculated as he offered the first dibs to frontliners and vulnerable sectors.

Challenged by Sen. Bong Go, Vice-president Leni Robredo’s camp on January 20, said that she will be getting COVID-19 vaccine in public to boost vaccine confidence. 

“As early as the first week of December, Vice-president Leni already declared her willingness to receive the vaccine in public to encourage all Filipinos to get vaccinated,” Gutierrez said.

“In her view, the government should have two priorities on this issue: ensuring the availability of a safe, effective, and affordable vaccine, and ensuring that as many Filipinos as possible receive it. She is more than ready to do her part in attaining these goals,” Gutierrez added.

Global leaders including US President Joe Biden, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have made their vaccinations public. 

Vaccine hesitancy

In a report by GMA News, a recent Pulse Asia survey revealed 47 percent of Filipino adults are not inclined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with safety concerns their top reason. 

Only 32 percent expressed willingness while the remaining 21 percent were ambivalent. 

Another survey by OCTA Research found only one out of four Metro Manila residents are willing to be inoculated. 

The non-commissioned poll also found that only 25 percent of people in the National Capital Region (NCR) were willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, 29 percent of who belonged to socio-economic Class ABC, 24 percent to Class D, and 27 percent to Class E while the remaining 75 percent were either unsure or unwilling to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Massive social media marketing campaign 

In another report by GMA News, Duque at a Senate hearing on January 11 said the DOH will launch a “massive” information campaign to urge Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“We will be engaging in a massive social marketing campaign so that our people, (anxious with) our previous very unfortunate experience with Dengvaxia, (will know) we have learned our lessons from that experience,” Duque said.

The DOH said the link between the deaths and dengue vaccine Dengvaxia has not been proven but the controversy was followed by a “sharp drop” in vaccine confidence in the Philippines, with over 100 parents blaming the deaths of their children to the vaccine in 2017.

Duque noted that the DOH is working with the Philippine Information Agency to produce videos explaining to Filipinos the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines set to be used in the country, adding that vaccine confidence has “improved over time” but “more still needs to be done.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III urged the DOH to counter contents on social media poking fun at vaccination. 

“Right now in social media you’re being defeated by those presentations, where they are being vaccinated and they speak Chinese thereafter and all that stuff… daming comedy ang nangyayari,” Sotto said.

Duque said the DOH will tap organizations such as the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine Nurses Association to help explain to the public the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.