The events of recent days have shown that many people can and want to get the vaccine, but can’t due to a lack of equity and access.
As the vaccine rollout started in the country earlier this year, a major issue that popped up was vaccine hesitancy. People feared that a large chunk of the population was not willing to get vaccinated for one reason or another. While some of those reasons are valid, others were grounded on fake news and misinformation. This worried experts that after an initial wave of people wanting to get vaccinated, it would taper off eventually, which was used by the government as the main reason why vaccination rates in the Philippines are still low. After all, that is currently happening in the US, so it’s not that hard to imagine happening that here.
But given what has happened in the past few days, it has become clear that the vaccine hesitancy argument no longer stands up as the main reason why people can’t get vaccinated. It’s no longer just an issue of people not wanting of people wanting to get jabbed, it’s also the lack of resources and supply.
A number of Las Piñas residents run to get in a vaccination site at SM Southmall past 2 in the morning.— Anjo Bagaoisan (@anjo_bagaoisan) August 4, 2021
Despite the local gov’t prohibiting people from lining up outside jab sites during curfew hours, hundreds already showed up—many of them walk-ins.
📹:Bernard Tibudan pic.twitter.com/dJWazD6YwJ
In the early morning of August 5, pictures and videos flooded social media of long lines of people outside vaccination sites in Manila, Las Pinas, and a few other places. Vaccination sites such as SM San Lazaro, Lucky Chinatown Mall, Robinsons Place Manila, SM Manila, and SM Southmall in Las Pinas saw as many as 10,000 people line up and scramble to get a shot. This is despite the fact that each site has only about 2500 doses for the day. It was the day before the lockdown and lines reached as long as 1 km as early as 2 AM. The city of Manila is one of the few places in NCR that accepts walk-ins for anyone, but the crowds made for possible super spreader events given how the Delta variant is worming its way through the Philippines.
It was later revealed that fake news that people who aren’t vaccinated won’t be allowed to go outside or receive cash aid circulated. Rumors also spread that vaccinations won’t continue in ECQ and that you won’t be allowed to work outside your home if you’re not vaccinated. This caused a rush of people to get a jab before the lockdown started. The government later clarified that walk-ins should only be limited to senior citizens and that being unvaccinated won’t prevent you from getting cash assistance. Vaccinations will also continue through the whole of ECQ.
A LACK OF VACCINE EQUITY
What happened that day was indeed sad. People shouldn’t have rushed and crowded at the vaccination sites. That was dangerous and could have led to the further spread of COVID-19. It was also unfortunate how so many people believed in fake news. But these events, plus the obvious number of people who showed up have also shown that people do want to get vaccinated. The circumstances of why most people were there weren’t the best, but the fact that they were willing to do all that shows that there is openness amongst the general public to get vaccinated. The problem comes down to vaccine equity and rollout.
It should be remembered that most of the people who lined up in the early hours were working-class or lower-income citizens. These were not people who can easily schedule and take time off their day to get vaccinated. You don’t have to search far and wide to see that not everyone in the Philippines will have the same ease of access to the vaccines as everyone else. People will get left behind, not because they want to, but because their circumstances in life prevent them from getting vaccinated as soon as possible. Add to that a vaccine supply that is well short of what we need to achieve herd immunity, you have people wanting to but not getting vaccinated.
A SYSTEM THAT SERVES THE NEEDS OF ALL
How long did you wait in line to get vaccinated? 🤔— Philstar.com (@PhilstarNews) August 6, 2021
IN PHOTOS: Individuals hoping to get inoculated with COVID-19 vaccine flock to a mall in Antipolo City on Thursday.
📷: The STAR/Michael Varcas pic.twitter.com/khyBhqaSOG
Maybe this should serve as a wake-up call for those in power to step up the vaccine rollout now more than ever. To be clear, those people shouldn’t have done what they did and believe in false information. But at the same time, local governments should also improve the vaccination process. Considering that the areas involved are high-risk areas, there should be a more robust and organized system in place that can accommodate many people yet keeping safety measures on hand.
We want people to show up to get vaccinated and clearly, they will come. For some people, getting vaccinated is so easy or simple, but for others, it’s not and it takes too much unnecessary time and energy out of them. It’s actually out of touch to think that all those people who lined up in the early morning should just register online as if it’s so easy for them to do.
We have reached a point now where the excuse of vaccine hesitancy won’t just cut it anymore. The lack of vaccine equity and resources is glaring. The same way that most people now get the vaccine won’t be as effective for other sectors of the population. How are people supposed to get vaccinated if it’s done through a system that doesn’t cater to their needs? News flash: Just because you had an easy time getting vaccinated does not mean others will have a smooth experience as well. In any given situation, remember, check your privilege.
Featured photo in collage via Lisa Marie David, Reuters
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