MANILA (UPDATED) — Some senators have expressed their willingness to receive COVID-19 vaccinations publicly, in a bid to show Filipinos that the jabs are "efficient and safe."
In a statement, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he wanted to "lead by example."
"Kung makikita ng ating mga kababayan na handa ang kanilang mga lider na magpabakuna sa kabila ng malawakang pagdududa kung ang mga bakuna ba ay epektibo o hindi, malamang ay ma-engganyo ang nakararami na makilahok sa vaccination program ng Malakanyang," the senator said, urging his fellow government leaders to "step up" for the cause.
(If the public witnesses how willing their leaders are to be vaccinated publicly despite doubts on the jab's effectivity, maybe a lot of Filipinos would want to participate in Malacañang's vaccination drive.)
The government's vaccination program is still hounded by mistrust among Filipinos, according to recent surveys, potentially undermining the efforts in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. The inoculation program is expected to begin soon with the initial batches of jabs arriving this month.
With such vaccine hesitancy, Sotto described the government's information drive on COVID-19 shots as a "failure."
“Hanggang ngayon ay punong-puno pa rin ng alinlangan ang ating mga kababayan kung epektibo nga ba ang mga binibiling bakuna ng Department of Health. Marami pa rin ang nagdadalawang-isip kung sila ba ay magpapabakuna o hindi,” he said.
(Filipinos are still filled with doubt if the vaccine procured by the health department is effective. Many people are still thinking whether they would be vaccinated or not.)
Sen. Manny Pacquiao's spokesman, meanwhile, said the senator-boxer wanted to get vaccinated also in public and noted that it was an idea he previously raised to his fellow lawmakers.
“He (Pacquiao) is very willing to be vaccinated. In fact last year the idea came from him personally but we just have to be extra careful and prudent because it may affect his upcoming professional fight,” said Ron Munsayac in a message to ABS-CBN News.
Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go said he would also want to be inoculated in front of Filipinos to improve vaccine confidence.
"Willing po kami magpa-bakuna po sa publiko... bilang senador. hindi naman po ibig sabihin na kami po ay prayoridad, mas gusto po naming maunang mabakunahan ang mga mahihirap," the senator told ABS-CBN News.
"Ngunit kailangan nating makuha po ang kumpyansa ng bawat Pilipino para pumayag din po silang magpabakuna,” he added.
(We are willing to be vaccinated publicly as a senator. It doesn't mean we are a priority, we prefer the poor to be vaccinated first but we need to get every Filipino's confidence for the vaccination program.)
Over at ANC’s Headstart on Wednesday, Sen. Grace Poe also expressed her willingness to receive the vaccine.
“I’d ike to say that we would be able to assure the public that this is the best defense for now against the virus, and I’d like to protect myself as well as my loved ones and the people I work with," said Poe.
"I think it’s a responsible step for me to being vaccinated. And I encourage those to also have it done,” she added.
Other senators who have also expressed their readiness to get inoculated were Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.
“Yes, [I] am willing. Hope it could provide confidence for our people to consider getting vaccinated,” Recto said.
“More than willing. We need to boost the confidence of our people in getting vaccinated,” Gatchalian, in a separate statement, pointed out.
Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized that he was willing to be inoculated first to allay public fears over the safety of the vaccine.
But this changed after Malacañang said in late January that the President now opted to be vaccinated privately, as he wanted to get the shot in his buttocks, among other reasons.
The Palace on Thursday, however, said Duterte is set to announce the finality of his decision regarding his COVID-19 vaccination.
The National Task Force on COVID-19 and the health department earlier told the Senate that they would intensify the government’s information dissemination campaign on the vaccination program.
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