By Virginia Pasalo
SO many desperate attempts to have everyone vaccinated without a satisfactory explanation for the concerns raised. Some are outright ridiculous, requiring commercial establishments to offer discounts to those who can present a vaccination card. Some want it as a precondition to avail of certain government health programs. Politicians think that they can convince people to be vaccinated by offering incentives, the way they sell their candidacies to the electorate.
Well, surprise, the public is not as easily swayed when the issue is life and death. The public, despite the push from the government and big pharmaceutical industries, is taking its own sweet time, observing the impact of the vaccines from those who have taken them ahead. And the results are not encouraging. Even those vaccinated are not protected from getting the virus again. Some have experienced serious side effects, others have died.
Selling the vaccines is not as easy as selling a political candidate where cash and goods are legal tender. It is not as easy as giving incentives to citizens to participate in government programs. The public, often regarded as easily swayed with material incentives, makes its own calculated risks, when it comes to life and death. Until a satisfactory response to the questions and concerns regarding the vaccine is offered, no amount of incentivizing will carry the campaign to its targets.
The imperative is to look at the concerns squarely and address them. Citizens deserve adequate information in order to decide. At this point, the information they are getting do not warrant for taking a gamble on their lives. It is important to share available data, researches, expert opinions on the vaccine as they happen, where they happen. It is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. It is not only about sharing information, but sharing knowledge, creating knowledge where there is previously there was none. It is about mobilizing government agencies to devote adequate budget for research, to study and make clinical studies on alternative remedies and pharmacological possibilities that are closely linked to our own indigenous healing practices.
So much fear is being peddled in media and various institutions, both global and local, that it encourages further confusion and clouds the ability to think.
We can only deal with the pandemic if and when we are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action and create innovative learning processes. The end to the pandemic can never be achieved by lockdowns, or vaccinating a whole population with drugs whose effectiveness require several more years to be adequately established.
It surprised me that government institutions, even the ones in charge of public information and human rights, had adopted the view that access to vaccines is necessary and a human right. Of course it is, when the vaccines had gone through the rigorous process of testing. The World Health Organization (WHO) admits that the new vaccines have not gone through the rigorous trials for normal vaccines and the roll out of the vaccines is viewed as critical learning period to find out its impact on a larger public.
More imperative than the right to access to vaccines is the right of the citizens to be given adequate, timely, relevant information on all the vaccines being rolled out, and to engage the public in a decentralized and cooperative decision-making. There are many strategies to achieve meaningful information sharing that can encourage citizens to work and decide together instead of implementing the monolithic pressure and fear peddled by government and pharmaceutical industries.
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