Wenceslao: Addressing vaccine hesitancy

·3 min read

It is rather ironic that as more vaccines arrived in the country, the interest of the unvaccinated to have themselves vaccinated also waned. I would partly attribute this to the government’s “ningas cogon” information campaign. In Cebu, for example, authorities seemed to have loosened up as the daily number of infections lessened. The information that being vaccinated protects one from the serious symptoms of Covid-19 has not been widely explained. Even the more complicated point about herd immunity has not been translated to layman’s terms.

I am still waiting for barangay health workers to list my 15-year-old son for vaccination. We, the older ones, are already fully vaccinated. My wife had my son vaccinated for influenza last month. It also tested his willingness to have himself pierced with a needle, one of the problems I am sure will be dealt with by health workers when they start vaccinating children and young teenagers. I have some worries about the vaccination process for teenagers, but I put my faith in the Department of Health.

As for face-to-face classes, I do not see an urgency in that even if online classes have already affected the resolve of my other son who is already in college. He had asked our permission for him to skip one semester in his civil engineering course. I granted him permission because I don’t think online learning would be good in that field. I’d rather that he waits until things would stabilize. He already went through his first year without seeing the four walls of a classroom or the campus.

As for the current effort by the Department of Education to resume face-to-face classes in the lower grades, I don’t think it will work in my younger son’s school where regular classrooms were halved to accommodate the number of enrolled students. Even under normal times, the classrooms were so cramped the students found it hard to move freely. How many students would be disenfranchised by the protocols put in place to allow face-to-face classes? And didn’t President Duterte say that he will only allow the reopening of schools once the students are vaccinated? Currently, not all the teachers have been vaccinated.

I understand that the urgency to reopen the schools was prompted by us getting the distinction of us being one of only two countries in the world that are still to reopen schools. But the decision should be based on the local situation and not on what the other countries are doing. Would parents risk the safety of their children with the premature reopening of schools and the coronavirus still lurking around?

Which brings me back to vaccination. Why has the information drive on its need stopped? It is not enough for us to note the dwindling number of people in vaccination sites. Government officials must do something about it. Intensify the information drive. Make the mass vaccination effort less stringent. Bring the vaccination sites closer to the people by using village chapels and gyms. The vaccination effort must continue if we want to lick the pandemic in the shortest possible time.

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