Press Release | 15 January 2021

The Department of Health (DOH), in partnership with the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), and with support of UNILAB, today held a town hall meeting with medical professionals to generate support for COVID-19 immunization program. The event was attended by over a thousand medical professionals from all over the country.

A first of many upcoming regional and hospital town halls, the meeting revolved around the national government’s vaccination roadmap and its efforts in addressing vaccine hesitancy. It also highlighted healthcare workers’ roles in the vaccination program. Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III noted that the meeting also served as an avenue where medical professionals were able to raise their questions and concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccine deployment.

“With the expected arrival of vaccines this quarter, we want our medical professionals to be fully equipped, not just on its administration, but also in advocating the vaccination program and in countering misinformation and disinformation surrounding vaccines,” Sec. Duque said.

Dr. Benito Atienza, President of the Philippine Medical Association, expressed gratitude towards the government for prioritizing the healthcare workers in the initial batches of the COVID-19 vaccine. “This will enable medical professionals to fully and without fear participate in the program and attend to patients requiring medical attention,” Dr. Atienza said.

The health chief revealed that there exists a great demand for relevant and timely information on the government’s efforts to ensure that a significant number of Filipinos are inoculated by 2021. With the rapid changes and developments in terms of vaccine deployment, social media also became a platform for rumors, misinformation, and disinformation in many forms. Such disinformation and misinformation erodes public confidence not just in the coming COVID-19 vaccine, but vaccines in general.

“Vaccines work. Vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections from bacteria or viruses or in keeping one from acquiring the severe form of a particular disease. The government is doing everything to ensure that the vaccines we will provide to every Filipino are safe and efficacious. We also ensure that the vaccines will be administered in an ethical way,” Sec. Duque added

The Health Secretary stressed that in this crucial time, what the country needs are champions and partners who will serve as talking heads and advocates. With their voices and networks, more people across the health sector and possibly other sectors may be motivated to get vaccinated once the vaccine is rolled out. “The town hall is part of DOH’s vaccine communication plan. Apart from the multimedia, we are also reaching out to healthcare workers, sectoral groups and the local government to address wariness with vaccines,” he said.

The series of town hall meetings aims to multiply COVID-19 vaccine champions by providing healthcare workers and local government unit leaders timely information about the COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan, as well as encourage the different medical societies to organize training on vaccine communications with the DOH providing content and speakers.

“What the country needs now is relevant and timely information, not disinformation and false predictions. We must all unite now and work towards quickly overcoming the pandemic which for too long has burdened our countrymen,” Sec. Duque urged.