MANILA - By the time elementary school children in Iloilo were lining up for vaccines on Monday, they were convincing each other that the pain would be worth it, highlighting the efforts of a team from the University of the Philippines in the Visayas to help them overcome their fear of needles.
For months, Team BakUNAWA, had worked to demystify immunization for students of Ungka II Elementary school in Pavia town, which has one of the lowest compliance rates in the province despite being an urbanized area.
On Monday, the school reported 100 percent compliance for booster shots against measles rubella and tetanus diptheria. Such diseases, while common, can spread easily during times of disaster. Pavia was among areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
Team leader June Luis Salvador told ABS-CBN he was touched to see a first-grader talking her classmate into getting vaccinated.
"Para hindi ka magkasakit (So that you won't get sick)," he recalled the girl as saying. "That was the change that we wanted to impart."
With funding from Unilab Foundation Ideas Positive, Salvador's team hosted lectures and games for students, their parents and guardians.
Group discussions showed that children were generally fearful of vaccination and the commonly used justification that it was no more painful than an insect bite had been reduced to cliche, he said.
One child was even observed to have run to the toilet at the mere sight of a health worker wearing a white lab coat, he said.
Team BakuNAWA lets kids "kill" viruses in games and provides them with coloring books about "Baki," a child who is trying to overcome his fear of injections.
They also engage the community through their Facebook page.
Salvador and his team, Bealou Patrishe Galupo, Anna Nicole Cuachon, Precious Jemimah Legayada and Jason Clement Acebuque finished their public health studies at UP Visayas this year.
"Disease-free children will have better opportunities in the future," said the group's adviser, public health professor Calvin S. de los Reyes.
De los Reyes is a veteran in the field, having written a maternal and child health handbook used by the Tagbanua tribe in remote areas of Coron in Palawan.