MANILA (UPDATE) — Nearly half or 47 percent of Filipinos said late last year they would not get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19, according to results of a Pulse Asia survey revealed Thursday.
Of 2,400 adults surveyed on Nov. 23-Dec. 2 last year, 47 percent said they would skip the inoculation, while 32 percent said they would get vaccinated. Twenty-one percent were undecided.
The prevailing opinion was most popular in Visayas (55 percent), followed by Mindanao (48 percent), Balance Luzon (46 percent), and Metro Manila (41 percent).
Concern about the safety of the vaccines, at 84 percent, is primarily the reason of those who said they would not get vaccinated, according to the survey.
The sentiment was highest in Metro Manila at 89 percent, followed by Visayas at 88 percent, Balance Luzon at 84 percent, and Mindanao at 79 percent.
Meantime, some 5 percent said a vaccination was not required to combat COVID-19, while 7 percent were concerned that it might not be free, and 4 percent said it might be expensive.
The government must exert more effort in its vaccination campaigns after a decline in confidence following the Dengvaxia controversy, health reform advocate Tony Leachon earlier said.
In late 2017, the government stopped its nationwide dengue vaccination program and pulled Dengvaxia off the market after drugmaker Sanofi warned that the vaccine might cause severe symptoms if given to those who did not have prior exposure to the mosquito-borne disease.
“Nanggaling ang takot na 'yan sa sad story natin sa Dengvaxia fiasco. 'Yun minadali, safety issue 'yun. Hindi dumaan sa medical community, diretso sa DepEd (Department of Education),” said Dr. Tony Leachon, referring to the anti-dengue vaccine that was reported to cause severe symptoms when administered on those who have never had the mosquito-borne disease.
(That fear emanated from the sad story of the Dengvaxia fiasco. That was a safety issue, they rushed it. It did not go through the medical community but straight to DepEd.)
An OCTA Research Group study earlier found that only 25 percent of Metro Manila residents are willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The capital region is home to roughly a tenth of the Philippines' 100 million population.
The 75 percent vaccine hesitancy is "very dangerous," former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral earlier said.
"We need to make them understand that vaccines are effective and safe. And that if they take it, the chances of developing this dreaded coronavirus illness are going to be reduced by very significant number," she told ANC.
"We need to make sure that we reach everybody with the correct information so that they can choose for themselves whether they will accept the vaccine or not."
The Philippines is expected to begin its COVID-19 vaccination program in the second quarter as the first batch of its order from AstraZeneca is scheduled to arrive in May.
The Pulse Asia survey was conducted at a time when Pfizer and Moderna announced that their vaccines were 90 percent and 94.5 percent effective, respectively, based on their trials, the pollster said.
The country as of Wednesday reported 480,737 cases of COVID-19, with 22,690 active infections. It has yet to detect the new coronavirus variant, the health department said.