MALACANANG, MANILA (18 April 2022) — A group of international organizations have recognized the Philippines for its exemplary efforts in addressing vaccine hesitancy among its citizens.

This, according to a report prepared by the World Health Organization, World Bank, Gavi, UNICEF and other foreign institutions entitled “Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment: Removing obstacles to increase coverage levels and protect those at high risk.”

The said report was presented to the G20, the premier forum for international economic cooperation, composed of 20 countries representing the world’s most major economies which account for 80% of the world’s GDP.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s Talk to the People public address on Monday, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. cited the findings of the report, which lauded the Philippines for the initiatives it has carried out to reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase demand generation.

Vaccine hesitancy still remains a major challenge among countries across the globe despite the wide availability of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Nakikita nila na we were able to increase the [vaccination] coverage, [and remove] ‘yung mga obstacles na nangyari noong magkaroon tayo ng mishap po sa Dengvaxia,” Galvez said.

“Napakalaki pong karangalan ito sa Pilipinas kasi ito po ay napakalaking evaluations ng UNICEF, GAVI, and the international community na nilalagay ang Pilipinas na isang ehemplo in terms of reducing vaccine hesitancy and increasing demand for COVID-19 vaccination including the risk communication and community engagement,” he added.

According to the report, securing the COVID-19 vaccines is one thing, but administering the jabs is the bigger challenge.

The report recognized the complexity and difficulty of promoting pro-vaccination behaviors when introducing a new vaccine to a population.

The Philippines, the report noted, was successful in this regard, through effective risk communication and community engagement.

Galvez commended and thanked all public and private sector partners for helping to spread the message that all COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa ating mga LGUs, sa DILG, sa ating mga comms. Gusto naming pasalamatan si Sec. Martin, ang ating PCOO, na talagang tuloy-tuloy po ang pagde-deliver ng information and education sa ating mga kababayan,” Galvez said,

“Nagpapasalamat din po kami sa media groups at sa ating mga strategic communication, at sa private sector dahil napakababa po ng ating willingness noong una, umaabot lang tayo sa 36%. Napalakas po natin ‘yun hanggang magkaroon po ng 87%,” he added.

The report likewise acknowledged the Philippines’ efforts in ramping up the demand for vaccination, which is a “crucial determinant of success” for any country.

Among the country’s key interventions in ramping up demand generation included engaging key opinion leaders to advocate for vaccines, training of health and care and community-based peer educators, and providing incentives for those who will be vaccinated.

As of April 18, 144,781,087 vaccine doses have been administered nationwide. Of this number, 66,979,873 are already fully vaccinated.

Continuous ramping up of vaccination

Despite the recognition coming from these international groups, Galvez said there will be no let up in the country’s vaccination efforts to ensure the continued protection of all Filipinos.

“We will still maintain our focus on vaccinating the remaining 1.8 million population of seniors. Ito po ang talagang mahigpit na direksyon ni DOH Secretary Duque. Ang pangalawa po nating strategy is to improve the vaccine coverage of BARMM at saka po ng Region XII,” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar, together with members of the National Vaccine Operations Center (NVOC), recently visited Cotabato City to personally relay the message of the President for BARMM officials to step up with their vaccination efforts as the region continues to lag behind in terms of throughput.

Galvez said the government also remains determined to increase the uptake of booster shots, following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval for second boosters to select population sectors.

“Ito po naghihintay na lang po tayo ng HTAC advice at saka ‘yung tinatawag nating ‘yung positive recommendation nila. But Usec. Myrna [Cabotaje] of NVOC already prepared the DOH-NVOC guidelines,” he said. ###