Massive trust campaign

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - February 6, 2021 - 12:00am

The number of those who wish to be vaccinated is still low with the onset of the COVID-19 vaccination program. Just about a third of Filipinos were willing to be vaccinated and had different reservations about the vaccine. The hesitation lies not in the vaccine efficacy information, as this can be verified and obtained before use, but in the side effects of it.

I have been hooked on a movie series via Netflix for the past few days, chronicling the quest for a certain cure for a mysterious disease. Cutting the long story short, as they have already developed the certain vaccine, they began using it on a select few, but only after a few days, terrifying complications emerged. And such complications spread like wildfire and to the extent that it is uncontrollable for the government. Even as the entire series is fictional, it is drawn from some realities. And so, this is what truly scares others from being vaccinated.

In this time when we want our people to believe that something will work for them, trust is really important. And so, there really is a need for a major push for trust. But who will really persuade our people to believe this? What particular agency should take those unconvinced to the other side? What concrete proof will make them believe that it's going to work?

Former health secretary Esperanza Cabral cited a study in the United States that found that the most trusted informant of people is their own doctor, followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, their local public health department, and the Food and Drug Administration. But I am uncertain that this case is true in our country where we see oftentimes more politicians than health experts announcing, at times, their mixed messages, views, and opinions in all media platforms.

In 2018, in the midst of the Dengvaxia controversy, the vaccine confidence in the country dropped when the dengue vaccine was blamed for the deaths of some infants. The problems were just really sensationalized, with a lot of false stories about scientists, regulators, and officials. They saw a lot of inquisition like hearings in the Senate where the scientists were really disrespected and people lost confidence in them.

We cannot blame our people for having lost their confidence in our government's vaccine program. It's a systemic issue that depends on a host of factors. It requires a system that genuinely depends on science and not on any strong and powerful vested interest.

More than ever, it is time to seek guidance from health professionals and organizations whose expertise are driven by scientific processes and procedures. A framework of truthful distribution of knowledge must also help, echo and amplify this. In order to ensure an accurate picture of reality, news or information providers must place it on their agenda.

And for our government officials, they must really fulfill their duty to protect their constituents by setting good examples. This entails first being subjected to vaccinations and to the point of making it clear for others to realize that there are no underground transactions and unscrupulous motivations. And when all of these are realized, I believe we can gradually win back the lost trust.

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