(File Photo)

Health officials see hesitancy and the presence of anti-vaccination groups as reasons behind the low vaccination rate in the province of Palawan.

Department of Health (DOH) MIMAROPA Assistant Regional Director Dr. Ma. Vilma Diez said during a virtual press conference on Monday that MIMAROPA and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) are the regions considered the most challenging in the vaccination drive due to their location, which require a huge number of health workers.

She said the problems identified are lack of manpower and inaccessible areas in the conduct of vaccination rollouts in Palawan.

“Sa bansa ay dalawa lang – ang MIMAROPA at BARMM ang medyo mabagal ang vaccination dahil sa layo. May pupuntahan ka tapos iisang bahay lang ang nandoon, ang [travel time] napakalayo. Then, aminin naman natin na kulang pa rin talaga tayo sa tao,” Diez said.

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She also mentioned that groups opposing vaccination is still one of their problems.

She said while they continue to promote vaccination, there are groups and individuals who encourage the public to not get vaccinated, but she did not elaborate on the details of the groups.

“Malaking factor din ang mga anti-vaccine, may malakas na grupo d’yan sa Palawan na lumalaban sa bakuna. May mga leader pa ‘yan at mga organization, sinama pa nila ang mga religious organizations na nagpapakalat sa ating mga kababayan na ‘wag magpabakuna. ‘Yan po ang malaking kalaban natin,” she explained.

“Tayo naman ay talagang pino-promote natin ang bakuna sapagkat nakita natin na ang may mga outbreaks ay ‘yong mga hindi nagpapabakuna. Dito sa Pilipinas ay hindi rin tumaas ang kaso kasi may mga areas na mataas na ang bakuna at nandito pa rin ang face mask,” she added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Justine Barbosa, Medical Specialist II of the Provincial Health Office (PHO), stated that in order to classify an area under Alert Level 1, at least 70 percent of the target population and 80 percent of the senior citizens should be vaccinated.

Barbosa noted that Palawan has not yet reached 70 percent of the fully vaccinated individuals, while the vaccinated senior citizens are 47.07 percent.

She said the provincial government has already formulated strategies, including the identification of the towns and barangays with the largest unvaccinated populations.

“Ito ay hindi dahil sa performance kundi malaki ang population ng kanilang nasasakupan kaya nag-identify tayo ng mga barangay at munisipyo na malaki ang population na wala pang vaccine. ‘Yon ang bibigyan natin ng assistance para mapataas ang vaccination,” Barbosa said.

She said they have already sought assistance from different agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office (DSWD) to encourage Palaweños to get vaccinated.

Palawan is also set to conduct a Provincial Vaccination Week from May 30 to June 3.

“Humingi na rin tayo ng tulong sa ibang mga agencies para mas mapataas ang vaccination rate natin,”she added.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.