As the Philippines ramps up its vaccination program against COVID 19, the country continues to face several key issues ranging from vaccine hesitancy to the emergence of new COVID variants. In an effort to help move from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine confidence and encourage private companies to take part in advocating vaccination among Filipinos, Havas Life recently hosted “VacciNation: Vaccines for a Healthier Nation.”
The online conversation, part of Havas’ The New Life webinar series, featured Professor Emeritus of University of the Philippines College of Medicine’s Dr. Lulu Bravo, Havas Health & You Global Chief Medical Officer Dr. Suketu Patel, and consumer healthcare expert Dave McCaughan. They each discussed the role of health care professionals in building vaccine resilience in the Philippines and the narrative around vaccination positivity.
Vaccines as a public health issue
Dr. Lulu Bravo, a leading pediatrician and staunch advocate of vaccination in the country, underlined the importance of discussing vaccines as a public health concern.
“When you vaccinate an individual, you should emphasize that it is not just the person you are protecting from getting sick. You are preventing the community, their family, their loved ones from being infected.” Dr. Bravo, who leads and co-founded the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, also reminded Filipinos to not neglect protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, dengue, and polio.
She encouraged the health care sector to take the lead in the issue by building alliances and advocacy as a united voice. “We need to build resilient and sustainable immunization systems and follow-up with programs that can withstand major shocks and maintain high vaccine uptake. We need experts who would respond with empathy, equity, equality, timeliness, honesty, and confidence.”
“Vaccination is what will drive the end of this pandemic. The goal is to get as many people around the world to be vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Suketu Patel who discussed the groundbreaking role of immunology in significantly increasing life expectancy around the world. Dr. Patel said that all vaccines are effective against the emerging COVID-19 variants, which are also more transmissible.
Creating positive vaccine conversations
All three experts agreed on the importance of framing narratives in order to encourage vaccine confidence, such as positive conversations about vaccines and talking about positive vaccination experiences that focus on facts.
“We must understand people’s motivations and frame conversations in ways that matter to them,” stressed Dr. Bravo. “A lot of the factors that lead people to questioning vaccines have nothing to do with the science. We need help to spread correct information. A strong health care recommendation is a powerful predictor of vaccination.”
David McCoughan, of consultancy firm Bibliosexual, shared how analyzing online content can help the health sector and governments better understand people’s sentiments about vaccines.
“When it comes to vaccine positivity, we should move from threatening language to encouraging stories. In Southeast Asia for example, we have been seeing a lot of future-proofing trends online. In the Philippines, more people have been looking up online resources such as setting up online businesses and acquiring online certificate courses. We can take advantage of this proactive behavior and create conversations about the COVID vaccine around these topics showing people how to future-proof their lives.”
Havas Media Ortega’s recent prosumer report on Health and Hygiene also underscored that when it comes to vaccines, doctors are still the primary influencers. The report also showed that 85% of prosumers are willing to get vaccinated despite initial setbacks and 64% are willing to tolerate mild to moderate side effects in exchange for effectiveness.