Cargill and CARE Philippines, have collaborated with non-government organizations and business partners, to boost the vaccination rates in select areas of Bulacan Province, Batangas and South Cotabato by the end of 2021 through the COVID-19 Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) and Vaccination Roll-Out project. This vaccine advocacy project is expected to reach about 260,000 people.
More than a year after the Philippines launched its efforts for mass vaccination against COVID-19, there is still much work to be done to achieve population protection. The National Task Force against COVID-19 released statistics showcasing a slowed down rate of administering shots last October with only 375,773 compared to 523,018 of August 2021.
A possible reason could still be the existing hesitancies from Filipinos about vaccination, with only 61% of the population being willing to be vaccinated based from a survey released by the Octa Research group last October 22.
The Social Weather Stations conducted a survey to find out what the possible reasons are why Filipinos are unwilling despite being offered a free vaccination. The fear of possible side effects ranks as number one in the list followed by old age, being diagnosed with comorbidities and belief in reports of fatality.
“In Cargill, putting people first has always been a part of our values. And this value of caring for people goes beyond our employees and extends to those in the communities where we live and work. Through the RCCE and Vaccination Roll-Out Project, we aim to tip the scale in favor of population protection from COVID, thus allowing ourselves and our communities to bounce back from this pandemic,” said Christopher Ilagan, Cargill Philippines’ Corporate Affairs Director.
The RCCE and Vaccination Roll-Out Project, which is being implemented in Malolos City, Baliwag and Pulilan in Bulacan Province, Sto. Tomas City in Batangas, and General Santos City in South Cotabato, aims to support 30 barangay local government units (BLGUs) to increase their capacities in implementing COVID-19 policies and help encourage their residents to get vaccinated. More than 2,450 barangay officials, health workers and members of the peacekeeping team have already been trained by medical professionals to further spread information and provide communication about the risks of COVID-19 and vaccination benefits.
Support was also given to BLGUs with low vaccination rates by providing free transportation for vaccination to residents – especially women, PWDs and the elderly – from far-flung areas of the covered locations. Incentives were also given, like rice, food and hygiene kits, to encourage other community members to participate.
In alignment with the proclamation that 30 November – 01 December and 17-19 December 2021 as National Vaccination Days, the RCCE Project in Batangas and Bulacan provided free rides to 2,420 individuals from far flung barangays to the vaccination sites, free snacks and sanitary kits and distribution of information, education and campaign materials. The Community Health Educators (CHEs) hired and trained by the project also provided additional health manpower during the vaccination events at the selected barangays. Additionally, about 4,000 community members received rice and hygiene kits incentives from the project. Among these community members whom the project assisted to be vaccinated, more 700 of them confessed that previously, they are hesitant to take the shot but through the community education conducted by the project, they were encouraged to get vaccinated.
Romy M. Pagaduan, the chairperson of Brgy. Ligaya, General Santos City said that the project has made it easier for them to convince their residents to get vaccinated. He shared that his barangay is among those which have low vaccination rates due to people being less-informed, if not misinformed, about COVID-19 and the vaccines. “We now have the right answers to their questions especially those that were drawn from information they got from social media and rumors spread in the barangay”, he said.
The project is led by CARE Philippines and being implemented with Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE) and Sarangani Province Empowerment for Community Transformation Forum (Spectrum) in General Santos City, Southern Tagalog People’s Resource Center (STPRC) in Batangas and CARE Philippines in Bulacan with participation from Cargill employees across all these areas.