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Opinion

Diff’rent strokes

SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

Government could be more aggressive and creative in convincing folks to get vaccinated instead of resorting to threats of arrest and punishment (that “no vax, no ride” policy is really problematic to enforce). There have been efforts, especially in the beginning, to stoke the enthusiasm for vaccines, such as raffles (one for a house and lot!), slogans, social media and media campaigns, celebrity endorsers... Yet so far, only a little over half of the population targeted for vaccination has been jabbed.

There are people who are ineligible for the COVID vaccination because of age (kids still too young to be vaccinated against COVID) or medical condition; those who opt not to get the shot because of personal and/or religious beliefs (does ‘No-vax’ Djokovic fall under this category or is he just feeling entitled?) and those operating under misinformation and disinformation. For those in the last group, finding the key to change their minds is an exercise in patience and creativity.

Those two characteristics my friend Ka Chak has in abundance. His household helper Manang A and his brother’s helper Manang B never actually said they did not want to get vaccinated. They just had all kinds of excuses for not getting jabbed – high blood pressure, fast heartbeat, cough, headache, sneezing, family in the province doesn’t want her to get jabbed... He had planned to bring them both to a doctor to get full medical clearance to be vaccinated, just to set their minds at ease. But still sensing resistance, he tried another tack.

On Dec. 25, he called both of them over, gave them their angpao (money gift) and told them that, since they’re unvaccinated and more vulnerable to catch the virus, if they contract COVID and infect him and he dies, “last angpao na ito” and to Manang A he added, “pati sweldo mo, wala na.” On Dec. 27, they both agreed to get their shots.

Before going to the vaccination center, Ka Chak had them take tanglad (lemongrass) tea and Biogesic. At the center, their blood pressure was 140/80 and 120/80, respectively; he told the doctor it took him months to convince them to get vaccinated, “kaya payagan mo na, bago magbago pa sila ng isip.” Fortunately, the doctor agreed. When she got home, Manang A immediately called all her relatives to announce that she had been vaxxed. She proudly declared she felt no adverse symptoms, “konting kirot lang” at the injection site because she followed all of his instructions.

Their reward? “I declared them señoritas for two days – no work, just watch ABS-CBN and rest.” Their second shots are scheduled for Jan. 24.

The other day Manang A reported, with a sense of smugness I’m sure, that an elderly neighbor who is unvaxxed was “dinampot” by authorities for lingering outside. Ka Chak told her good thing you’re vaccinated, because if not and you get “dampot” on your way to market, I wouldn’t even know what happened to you and where to find you. “Konting reinforcement syempre,” he texted me.

My Manang R, initially adamant against getting the vaccine (she had never had an injection in her life), asked to be signed up for shots – and even for the booster – at our local government site with the realization that she might not be able to go home to the province without a vax card.

And, like Ka Chak’s Manang A, proudly announced to her relatives and our neighbors that she was vaxxed. “Wala lang, huwag kayo matakot,” she told a neighbor who was holding back. “Sabi ng doktor parang kagat ng lamok, pero wala naman ako naramdaman. Di ko alam, tapos na pala!” With all three shots, even the Moderna booster (her primary shots were AstraZeneca), she had no adverse reaction, just a slight heaviness in the injection site. She’s been a good example, successfully convincing several of her friends to get their jabs.

I don’t know what it would take to get those eligible but still unvaxxed – especially the 1.5 million-plus senior citizens who are most vulnerable – to get the shots. When the barangays complete their inventory of vaxxed and unvaxxed residents, more targeted and focused efforts could be exerted. The vax at the botika (pharmacy) is a good idea; house-to-house vaccinations, perhaps?

In the meantime, if there are those among your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, clients, suppliers who are still vaccine hesitant, get creative with ways to convince them. Maybe all it takes is an angpao. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.

COVID-19 VACCINE

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