Regaining trust

ESSENCE - Liagaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - January 9, 2021 - 12:00am

As social creatures we are born to be engaged and to engage others, which in large part involves trust. That has been an asset in our battle for survival. To trust is human. As any human social interaction, it requires a certain amount of trust. And one's experience dictates how to respond to the other.

On an institutional level, based on our interactions with them, we trust an institution. This is very much the case for the government's vaccine program. In the current survey as to whether individuals will be exposed to the COVID-19 vaccine, the number of those who would like to use it is declining. And we can't blame them, since they still have the notion and experience of Dengvaxia, despite the assurance of the government as to the vaccine’s safety.

According to the findings of OCTA Research's Tugon ng Masa study, only 25% of the 600 respondents aged 18 and up are willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Metro Manila in a survey conducted from December 9 to 13.

In other words, there is a high "vaccine hesitancy" among those being surveyed which means there is a delay in acceptance or denial of safe vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services. One of the most dominant reasons for vaccine hesitancy is anxiety about vaccine safety. The key explanation for these doubts was the widespread media coverage that illustrates an unusual incidence of adverse reaction to a vaccine, or associating certain disorders to vaccines or their components. Most of these concerns, however, were based on rumors rather than the facts and yet somehow managed to instill fear in the hearts and minds of the constituents.

It is necessary to educate the public regarding safety and success of all other available vaccines through mass education programs, awareness campaigns and conferences to overcome fear and confusion. Media can play a key role in eliminating misconceptions and skepticism resulting from previous controversies. Highlighting the positive roles and benefits vaccination campaigns possess may prove to be efficacious as previous vaccination programs have had a tremendous success rate in reducing the mortality and morbidity of various infectious diseases worldwide.

It should be stressed that this particular crisis should not be related to other vaccines and that the production of newer vaccines should be trusted by the medical sector. In an attempt to restore the confidences, both government and non-government health care authorities must work together. As a global organization, the WHO should play its role in promoting and protecting public health by helping to prevent a drop in vaccination rates and ensuring the acceptability of future vaccines.

This is also a challenge for the agency in question to recover the trust of the people. And doing so will require efforts by our leaders to set the requisite precedent, making them the first vaccine takers. They themselves must show their constituents that their welfare is of utmost importance to them and that they are being secured for their well-being.

We may be mature enough to forgive if someone or anything breaks our trust, but we need to be wise enough to completely trust them until they prove their intentions.

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