Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday, November 8, said it is possible to delay the release of subsidy for beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) if they remain unvaccinated, but not completely exclude them from the program.
“Ang nakita natin sa 4Ps, pwede naman i-delay, hindi naman natin ifo-forfeit,” Galvez said during government’s Laging Handa briefing.
“Once nabakunahan na siya, ibibigay na,” he added.
(We can delay and not forfeit, so they’ll get it once they’re vaccinated.)
The statement came after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Saturday, November 6, that the government is studying whether to require 4Ps families to be vaccinated.
In a radio interview, DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said vaccination may be included on top of the existing conditions beneficiaries have to meet to be included in the program.
Law needs to be amended
DILG’s proposal was slammed by lawmakers and civil society organizations, reminding the government that conditions are set in the law that created 4Ps.
Conditions set by Republic Act 11310 include pregnant women should seek prenatal services, children below 5 years old should regularly undergo medical examinations and vaccinations, and that children of school age should attend classes, among others.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said the law may be amdended to include vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition, and that the DSWD should study this proposal.
Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to promote the importance of vaccination, “instead of making it a conditionality.”
Rights group Karapatan, meanwhile, said that “forcing, threatening, and coercing” people by limiting access to basic services “does nothing to address vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccine disinformation.”
Vaccination mandate now ‘necessary’
While Galvez said forfeiting the benefits may not be the right way, he agrees that mandated vaccination is already necessary.
“Sa aking palagay, napapanahon na po na i-mandate ang vaccination (In my opinion, it is high time to mandate vaccination,” he said.
The Department of Health on Friday, November 5, said it is open to making vaccines mandatory, but said it would be treated as “last resort.”
The discourse surrounding vaccine mandates come as the government aims to reach its target of 50% of the population by December 2021. It later targets to vaccine 70% of the population by the May 2022 elections, and eventually reach 90%.
Social Weather Stations, in a recent survey, found that while 6 out of 10 adult Filipinos said they were willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but a sizable portion of the population remains reluctant or still unwilling to get the vaccine. – Rappler.com