THE UNITED Kingdom (UK) government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will be assisting the Bangsamoro region in a program to address hesitancy and refusal to get coronavirus vaccines.  

In a statement on Wednesday, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government said the partnership with the UK and UNICEF will involve the Ministry of Health, Bangsamoro Information Office, and the information offices in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.  

The program will focus on expanding the dissemination of correct information on vaccines, training local health teams on behavior change communication, and mobilizing stronger support from local governments.   

“The fight against COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is far from over, especially with the emergence of new variants. Through the renewed partnership with UNICEF and the UK government, we are confident that we will be able to address misinformation concerns,” BARMM Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim said.   

The UK and UNICEF previously assisted the BARMM in its coronavirus emergency response under a program that ran from Aug. 2020 to March 2021.  

“This time, we will be working closely with the Ministry of Health to focus on COVID vaccination. We all know that refusal and hesitancy are really major issues,” UNICEF Chief Field Officer for Mindanao Andrew Morris said.   

Ministry of Health Director-General Amirel Usman said the region’s full vaccination rate is currently only 10% of the more than 2.4 million eligible population  

“For our fully vaccinated individuals, we only have 10%. So our efforts are way (behind) and it’s not even half of the 70% (target for herd immunity). We have enough supply of vaccine right now but we face several challenges,” Mr. Usman said.  

Apart from hesitancy and refusal to receive the jab, the region is also faced with brand preference for the vaccine, rural health units that do not have doctors, late reports due to internet connectivity problems, lack of manpower for data management, and misinformation.  

“In this several months partnership project, we will have an extra focus on the islands because it is very diverse with multiple languages. So there is a need for extra communication efforts there,” Mr. Morris said. — MSJ 

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