DESPITE knowing that there is a low supply of vaccines in addition to the low turnout of people willing to be vaccinated in some vaccine sites, President Duterte threatened to send people to prison.
This, after the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) placed the country on a heightened alert level over new cases of the Delta variant (a.k.a. India variant) with the Department of Health reporting four new cases.
All four new cases were Filipinos returning from foreign countries, bringing to 17 the total cases officially detected, with one death and one still in the hospital.
The President’s threat may have been said out of passion in his wish to protect Filipinos, but it caught instant condemnation even from doctors who said nobody can force people to get vaccinated and send them to prison if they refuse.
Getting an experimental Covid vaccine shot is purely voluntary and not mandatory, but Digong’s toothless threat should instead help look for clear instructions for the vaccination program. Frightening the already confused and undecided people is useless.
People refusing vaccines is not new. It started way back in the 1800s when the smallpox vaccine was widely dispensed. Injecting people with cowpox virus to protect them from smallpox faced criticism based on sanitary, religious, and political reasons.
In the present situation, many believe that a vaccine would not protect them because of the WHO finding that those who are vaccinated can still get sick and have symptoms.
For others, they say that drug companies cannot be trusted, believing that pharmaceutical companies only want to sell their products, regardless of the effect on people who use them. Some do not believe that vaccines work and are waiting to see if others are safe.
Opposition to vaccines is due to doubts in science and mistrust of the government while others are simply unconvinced because they cannot accept the substances in vaccines that are injected into their bodies.
When people are doubtful, they will not submit to vaccination. And they prefer to use natural substances or traditional medicine that is based on the belief that the body can cure itself.
Groups opposed to Covid vaccines vary and have many reasons for avoiding injections. Some think that the risk of getting COVID -19 even after vaccination is there, so why vaccinate?
Science says that vaccines can prevent you from getting sick, but will not necessarily stop you from getting infected or spreading the virus. Although, some people cannot be vaccinated because of underlying conditions such as weak immune systems, cancer, or other medical treatments.
Vaccines do not always prevent infections but researchers hope to find vaccines that will reduce transmission of the virus after vaccination. Scientists know now that people who tested positive for COVID-19 after their first vaccine dose had lower levels of virus in their bodies than unvaccinated people who tested positive.
The researchers found out that the lessened viral load that vaccinated people contracted is less infectious and that they will have much fewer viruses to spread to others. These things are encouraging but researchers admit that they cannot yet determine if vaccines protect against all transmission.
Until clear evidence shows that vaccinated people do not spread the virus, it is better to avoid situations where there are risks to getting infected. Continued masking, face shields, and physical distancing are still effective ways to stay safer.
In addition to vaccine indecisiveness that has been overshadowing the government’s awareness campaign on the merits of vaccination, the vaccine rollout has been tainted by misinformation on social media.
Some stories on social media even include coronavirus conspiracy theory involving Bill Gates and microchips being injected into the body. Then there is the conspiracy theory called “The Great Reset” that exposed the coronavirus as an invention by the government to take control of the global economy.
Now, how should President Duterte make people overcome their resistance to being vaccinated? If science and the government have no definite answers to many questions, maybe it is good to pay attention to their concerns instead of telling them that they can be arrested.
Last Monday, Duterte said, “For as long as you are here and you are a human being and can carry the virus, get yourself vaccinated. Otherwise, I will order all the barangay captains to have a tally of the people who refused to be vaccinated.”
But the President knows that there is not enough supply of the preferred vaccines that many people want to get a jab with. Although the IATF announced last week that authorities have signed an agreement with Pfizer to deliver 40 million doses of Covid vaccines, the delivery is not due until two to three months.
The Philippines kicked off the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in March. Now, out of a population of 110 million, at least 2 million people had already completed their two doses of vaccines.
With a low supply of vaccines, I am taking the President’s challenge to make arrests.