MANILA - With the potential coronavirus vaccines on the horizon, vaccine mistrust could undermine the Philippines' effort in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, a public health expert said Tuesday.
Speaking to ANC's "Matters of Fact," Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, said conducting a massive information campaign would be critical in building vaccine confidence in the country.
"We know for a fact [that] the Philippines, after the Dengvaxia controversy in 2018, has become the biggest vaccine hesitant country in this part of the world," she said.
"This is really impacting on all the vaccine trials that we are doing on this COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of the vaccine that will be safe and effective for our people."
In late 2017, the government stopped its nationwide dengue vaccination program and pulled Dengvaxia off the market after drug maker Sanofi warned that the vaccine might cause severe symptoms if given to those who did not have prior exposure to the mosquito-borne disease.
In February, state prosecutors formally accused former Health Secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin and several others of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over the deaths of 8 children who received Dengvaxia.
The controversy has been blamed for the decline in immunization coverage in the Philippines.
As online misinformation may affect vaccine uptake, Bravo urged the public to listen to the experts.
"If a vaccine is made available to public, the safety and efficacy of this vaccine has been proven. This is what people should really understand that no one, no government... will want anything that will go into harm to our country," she said.
The Philippines, Bravo stressed, has "one of the biggest pool of very good vaccine experts and vaccine panelist in the world."
US drug maker Pfizer recently reported its vaccine was 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 while AstraZeneca's vaccine developed with the University of Oxford showed an average 70-percent efficacy.
American pharmaceutical firm Moderna also announced its experimental vaccine was around 95 percent effective against preventing the novel coronavirus.