The Department of Health (DOH) MIMAROPA region said it plans to conduct an information campaign to combat a growing misinformation and vaccine hesitancy against COVID-19.

In a virtual presser held Friday, DOH MIMAROPA Health Education Promotion Officer (HEPO) Romalyn Racho said they are currently laying the groundwork for an awareness campaign that will encourage the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19. She said part of the campaign is identifying why some choose not to be vaccinated.

“Sa ngayon ay ilalatag pa namin sa aming COVID-19 plan. Mayroon nang mga paumpisang mga ginagawa ang DOH, kasama itong orientation with our media partners. Kasalukuyan ay gumagawa ako ng handbook para sa vaccination program, dito makikita ang mga frequently asked questions patungkol sa vaccine,” Racho said.

“Naririnig namin ang mga nagsasabi na gagawin daw silang guinea pig dito sa bakuna. Nais namin itong i-address,” she added.

DOH MIMAROPA regional director Dr. Mario Baquilod added during the presser that the Dengvaxia controversy in 2016 is one of the biggest contributors to vaccine hesitancy. The DOH’s vaccination campaign was suspended in 2017 after vaccinated children allegedly started dying from complications after receiving Dengvaxia.

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“Itong mga usapan tungkol sa Dengvaxia ay nakaapekto sa aming measles/rubella at polio vaccination. Unfortunately, may mga sektor na [hesitant] dahil sa misinformation,” he said.

Racho added that the DOH is looking into conducting townhall meetings to disseminate information, especially to targeted vulnerable individuals. These include senior citizens, indigenous groups, and persons with disabilities.

“Ang mga townhall ay maaaring magawa face-to-face sa mga lugar na malalaki ang espasyo at masusunod ang mga minimum health standards. Dito namin papakinggan ang ating eligible population kung ano ang kanilang mga haka-haka patungkol sa vaccine,” she said.

“Mayroon din kaming chatbot sa official Facebook page sa DOH na awtomatikong may sasagot ang mga katanungan tungkol sa COVID-19 at sa COVID-19 vaccine,” she added.

She also clarified that there are no concrete plans or a timeline yet for the vaccination campaign as they are still gathering information on vaccine hesitancy to be able to design a program that will encourage the public to get vaccinated.

“Bago itong COVID vaccine sa atin kung ikukumpara natin sa mga usual na vaccination na ginagawa ng DOH. So dapat ang strategy that we are going to do is bago rin. I-aanchor namin ang mga gagawing activities sa mga tinatawag na driver of motivation, para sa desired behavior na gusto nating ma-attain sa ating community, o kaya sa ating eligible population,” she said.

In the Philippines, there are currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved vaccines ready for deployment. However, national government officials have promised to fast-track a nationwide vaccination program by February.

Puerto Princesa City government has already made moves to procure doses from two pharmaceutical companies, namely, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.