Robredo calls for massive info drive on COVID vaccine

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    Notes plunge in vaccine confidence due to Dengvaxia scare

    VICE President Leni Robredo yesterday called for a massive information campaign on the effects of getting vaccinated against the coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) amid fears generated by controversies surrounding the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which caused national panic in 2017.

    The Dengvaxia scare resulted in a plunge in vaccine confidence in the country from 93 percent to 32 percent, as parents became hesitant to have their children vaccinated.

    Robredo said the government’s planned information drive has to be stepped up to avoid a repeat of the propaganda war against the Dengvaxia vaccine, which she noted has adversely affected government’s vaccination drive against preventable diseases like polio.

    In her weekly radio program, Robredo said polio had long been eradicated but recently had a resurgence because of some people refused the vaccine.

    The Vice President fears a vaccine hesitancy scenario once the government starts rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines which, according to the Food and Drug Administration, could happen as early as March next year.

    Robredo said the Dengvaxia issue, which was used by President Duterte’s supporters to create an “irresponsible noise” to attack the previous administration, was what created the public scare.

    “It’s not wrong to create some noise but if it’s done irresponsibly, it could influence people to make wrong decisions. That’s what’s wrong. That’s what happened here and we hope it won’t happen again in the fight against COVID,” she said in Filipino.

    Dengvaxia, which was manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, was blamed for the deaths of some schoolchildren during the Aquino administration.

    Iloilo Rep. Janet Garin, who was the health secretary when the program was implemented was launched under the Aquino administration, has been repeatedly saying there is no scientific evidence linking Dengvaxia to the children’s deaths, even if Sanofi had disclosed the risks involved in getting vaccinated.

    At least 830,000 children have received Dengvaxia, under the vaccination program which continued under the Duterte administration.

    Robredo pushed for a house-to-house campaign, which she said boosted public response like in the campaign against tuberculosis.

    She also asked government to come up, as early as now, with the list of the names of the health workers who will be prioritized for COVID vaccination to avoid confusion and ensure a smooth implementation.

    In the government’s priority list are healthcare workers; frontliners like policemen, soldiers, and essential workers of the social welfare and education departments; poor households; and indigents.

    The government aims to vaccinate 60 million to 70 million Filipinos in three to five years.

    The President has said the vaccines should be acquired earlier than Health Secretary Francisco Duque’s projected period which is the second quarter of 2021.

    Duterte last week signed Executive Order No. 121 allowing FDA director general Eric Domingo to issue an emergency use authorization (EUA) for COVID vaccine candidates. Other countries like Britain have issued EUAs.