While indigenous knowledge and practices have been lauded for helping stem the spread of the Covid-19 especially during the onset of the pandemic, these cannot be used as the only protective means against the viral infection.
In the effort to protect the population against the Covid-19 through vaccination, officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples acknowledged some IPs are raising their indigenous beliefs to justify their refusal to be vaccinated.
NCIP Commissioner for Cordillera and Region 1 Gaspar Cayat said some IPs do not subscribe to vaccination, believing their rituals and practices can suffice as their protection.
He said this is not only true for the Cordillera, but also among IPs in other parts of the country.
“We are convincing (those who refuse vaccination) that rituals and indigenous beliefs and the vaccines are complementary (safeguards) against the Covid-19,” Cayat said.
But like other people who refuse vaccination, Cayat said the IPs cannot also be forced to be vaccinated.
NCIP-Cordillera Director Marlon Bosantog said the Covid-19 pandemic is a matter of life and death where culture cannot be used as a justification in refusing to subscribe to life-saving measures like vaccination.
“If an unvaccinated IP infects a person and put his life in danger, can we use culture and tradition to save that infected person’s life? We should not entertain the idea that rituals can be used as an excuse from the vaccination,” he said.
He asked elders and IP leaders to continue helping in the vaccination campaign and convince more IPs to be inoculated.
“This is a matter of life and death and in the hierarchy of rights, the right to life is at the highest,” he said.
Ryan Dale Mangusan, co-chair of the Committee on IP Concerns of the Regional Development Council, however, said not all IPs, especially in the Cordillera, refuse vaccination.
“In the Cordillera, only a few IPs refuse vaccination. If we look at the provinces and Baguio City, the vaccination rate is high,” he said.
The NCIP officials and Mangusan are among the guests during the opening of the IP Month celebration.
They were asked how the NCIP helps ensure that all IPs are vaccinated, considering the hesitancy and the fact that there are some groups who consider their beliefs and rituals can shield them from the virus that causes the Covid-19 and can heal them when infected.
Vaccine skepticism is not exclusive to the IPs, those with limited education, or developing nations.
Even governments of developed countries, like the United States and Australia, are having a hard time convincing their citizens to be inoculated.
Anti-vaccine movements in these countries and other developed nations are strong that those who support vaccination are reported to suffer from discrimination. – Jane B. Cadalig