MEDICAL experts and members of at least six medical organizations on Monday, August 23, 2021, launched a movement to combat coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine hesitancy as well as counter disinformation and misinformation which have caused confusion and panic among the unvaccinated.

Convenors of the Vaccine Solidarity Movement (VSM) said they aim to go after medical professionals who have been actively campaigning to dissuade other Filipinos from getting the vaccine by spreading false information on the vaccine.

“We denounce all medical practitioners who deliberately cause panic, fear and confusion among the public by making their anti-vaccination views known,” the VSM said in a statement.

Dr. Benito Atienza, president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), urged the public to file complaints against medical professionals who spread and deliberately post false information about the vaccines.

He said the complaints will be addressed by the PMA’s commission on ethics and will be forwarded to the regulatory agencies for action.

The VSM also aims to regularly hold forums with experts and ensure that experts are accessible to the media to provide peer-reviewed science-based information on the vaccines and counter the widespread disinformation ad misinformation on social media.

The group appealed to the media to give airtime and media mileage only to experts on vaccination.

Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., dean of the University of the Philippines College of Public Health, said they aim to provide the media access to the experts who sit in duly constituted experts groups to fight misinformation and ensure that the data released were peer-reviewed

Dr. Lulu Bravo, co-chair of the movement and member of the National Adverse Effects Following Immunization Committee, stressed that all vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are safe and effective.

She also urged the public not to be choosy and get the vaccine that is available.

“Huwag ho kayong mamili dahil hindi po ninyo alam kung anong variant ang tatama sa inyo. Ang importante lahat ng brand ay nakitang safe and effective,” Bravo said.

(Don’t choose because you don’t know which variant will hit you. What’s important is that all the brands are safe and effective.)

“Meron hong mga namimili na either nasa hospital or six feet underground (Some of those who were selective with the vaccine ended either in the hospital or six feet underground),” she added.

Amor Maclang, co-founder of Geiser Maclang Marketing Communications, said the VSM aims to make sure that the “right information, right education, right experts” are accessible to the media and the public.

She called for a stop to “politicizing vaccines and putting doubts in people’s heads” about the vaccine,

Recalling the Dengvaxia scare, Maclang said too many children have died of dengue because parents were hesitant about having their children inoculated with a vaccine that’s accepted in 24 countries.

“It’s happening again and let’s not allow it,” she said.

Other convenors include officials and representatives of the Philippine Pharmacists Association, Philippine Nurses Association, Philippine Dental Association and CBRC Health Professionals Network. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)