Fake News Causes Hesitation to Get COVID-19 Vaccination

PHILIPPINES – According to the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., the COVID-19 vaccination aims to save lives and may bring back normal times is the country faster. However, with plenty of fake news spreading in the internet people are taken aback from getting vaccinated.

Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccination – Fake News?

Reports from the NTF states that at least 117,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses from the US firm Pfizer BioNTech, under the COVAX facility, are expected to arrive this month in the country. On December 11, 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 Vaccine with Pfizer Inc. as the distributor. The manufacturer has given our Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for US individuals 16 years old and above.

In the Philippines, the FDA has also issued an emergency use authorization to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID19 Vaccine (BNT162b2) Suspension for IM Injection (Puurs, Belgium Site). Under Executive Order No. 121 s. 2020, vaccines under development can be granted a EUA where there is no adequate, approved, and available alternative to a vaccine for preventing COVID-19 during this present public health emergency. The granting of the EUA is not a marketing authorization or a Certificate of Product Registration, hence this cannot be used to market the vaccine commercially.

With the emergency use authorization officially issued, Central Visayas prepares for COVID-19 Vaccine rollout. Head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office Martin Andanar said that false info about vaccines adds to the misunderstanding and contributes to the apprehension of Filipinos to get vaccinated.

The challenge of the lack of understanding in this regard remains a widespread problem.” he said.

This gets further complicated with misinformation and disinformation by some individuals and groups who claim that vaccination is not an ideal and safe option for virus immunization,” he added.

In a poll report from November 23 to December 2, Pulse Asia showed that 47% of Filipinos refused to be vaccinated, with 32% are willing to be vaccinated and 16% are undecided. The survey also showed that 84% of those who refuse to be vaccinated are unsure if the vaccine is safe while 7% of those who refused said it might not be free. The 4% of those who refused to be vaccinated said that the vaccine could be costly or expensive. While the remaining 5% felt that a vaccine is not needed to combat COVID-19.

Preparation for Vaccination in the Philippines

As part of their preparation for the vaccine rollout, the chief of the Philippine Information Agency, Ramon Cualoping, said government’s “Explain, Explain, Explain” caravan went to Cebu, Siquijor and Negros Oriental in Central Visayas last week. The said caravan will be in Davao, Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte this weekend and in the Caraga region next week to talk with local government officials and other stakeholders about the vaccination program.

During the “Laging Handa” public briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Martin Andanar said the caravan aims to explain up to the grassroots level the importance of vaccination. He also said that the caravan aims to correct wrong information about the vaccines, like the government is favoring a particular brand or country despite concerns about the effectivity or risks involved in using the vaccine.

There were also some concerns that the vaccines that would be used are unregistered and did not pass the standards of the Food and Drug Administration. In a statement, Mr. Andanar said he understands the observation of Senate President Vicente Sotto III on the need for a better COVID-19 information campaign because of the “apparent apprehension among Filipinos to get vaccinated.”

He said this is the reason the PCOO has been intensifying its communications campaign, to further educate and enlighten Filipinos on the government’s vaccination program. Galvez said the IATF will discuss today proposals to limit this month’s mini-rollout of the vaccination program to health workers and medical frontliners from COVID-19 referral hospitals Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Lung Center of the Philippines, and East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City, and Dr. Jose Natalio Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center (Tala Hospital) in Caloocan City.

After the four facilities, health workers of other COVID-19 referral hospitals in other parts of Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City would be vaccinated. Galvez said another proposal is to roll out 5,000 to 10,000 doses of vaccines per local government unit at least in Metro Manila before the end of the month to cover the other health workers in their areas.

At least 117,000 COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer BioNTech, under the COVAX facility, are expected to arrive this month. Galvez said the government is set to send a letter before February 14 to the COVAX Facility to request 900,000 more doses of Pfizer vaccines. He previously said the commitment under the COVAX facility has been reduced because of limited supply.

The COVAX Facility is a global alliance that aims to provide poor countries opportunities to vaccinate their population against the deadly coronavirus. The Philippines is among 18 that will receive vaccines from the COVAX. Aside from Pfizer, the Philippines will also receive some 5.5 million to 9 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca, under COVAX, by the first quarter of this year.

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