June 14, 2024

Despite continuing strong resistance, the Department of Health-Cordillera is still not giving up on convincing the eligible populations of Benguet and Ifugao who remain hesitant of getting vaccinated against the Covid-19.

Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, DOH-Cordillera assistant director and spokesperson, reported on June 2 the two pro-vinces has yet to reach the 70 percent of the 85 percent of its respective target populations as all strategies to convince the unyielding ones which the health agency has tried so far are unsuccessful.

Based on data as of May 31, Benguet has 61.20 percent full vaccination rate representing 241,513 out of the 394,649 target individuals. The province also has yet to fully vaccinate its 34,841 target senior citizens with only 20,709 or 59.44 percent of them fully vaccinated.

While Ifugao also remains lagging behind the target, having reached out to 92,584 or 53.79 percent of 172,134 target population, the province has finally recorded 70.50 percent accomplishment for its A2 population with 9,805 out of 13,907 seniors now fully vaccinated.

Pangilinan said they are hoping the incoming administration will be more aggressive and stricter in enforcing Republic Act 11525 or the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which, however, does not make vaccination mandatory.

“Still a lot has to be done for these provinces, particularly in Kabayan, Kibungan, Bakun, and Kapangan in Benguet. It is really a challenging and daunting task. We have used various strategies, like converging with regional line agencies, doing last-mile vaccinations in phases, and finding a common ground so that an anti-vaxx person will be convinced they will not turn into a zombie when they get the vaccines. But wala talaga, ayaw talaga kahit anong gawin o sabihin namin,” said Pangilinan, who recently led vaccination teams to these Benguet towns and herself saw the “solid, strong, and unyielding resolve” of unvaccinated residents against submitting themselves to vaccination.

She said it seems misinformation got to the hardcore anti-vaccination individuals first, which they have already imbibed by the time vaccination teams reached them.

Worse, many of those who refuse to get the vaccine are health workers, teachers, lawyers business people, and religious leaders, barangay officials, senior citizens, which means members of their families eligible for the vaccine consequently are advised against or not permitted to get inoculated.

Pangilinan said they also learned these anti-vaccine individuals have a chat group composed of professionals where they share their anti-vaccination opinions and have strong influence.

They also found out that a section of RA 11525 is widely circulated and overemphasized in these areas, which provides that Covid-19 vaccination is not a requirement in schools, employment, government transactions, and availing of government assistance.

“They failed actually to appreciate the spirit of the law. They focused on vaccine not being mandatory. You will be surprised as well of the reasons they give us in refusing vaccination – they have not gotten their husbands’ approval, whether the government will be accountable when something bad happens to them after vaccination. Will they feed their family? And citing things they got in social media like their bodies will become magnetic to metals when vaccinated with (a certain vaccine brand),” Pangilinan added.

And while many of the pupils they talked to in their dialect for them to better understand the benefits of vaccine resoundingly agree to get vaccinated, Pangilinan said vaccination teams could not inoculate them because they do not have signed consent from their parents.

“We have tried everything but still their resistance is strong. We are just hoping the incoming administration may be more aggressive kasi wala kaming magawa. Still, we are not stopping and we are not giving up,” Pangilinan said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana