Philippines: Health Workers in Canoes Bring Vaccines to Rural Communities

Jojo Riñoza
Bani, Philippines
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Health workers arrive by motorized canoe at a remote village in the town of Bani, Pangasinan province, where they set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, Sept. 7, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A health worker prepares to vaccinate people inside a chapel at Sitio Abunciang, a remote community in the town of Bani, Pangasinan province, Sept. 7, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A resident has his blood pressure checked before receiving his vaccination, Sept. 7, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A woman watches a health worker prepare her inoculation, Sept. 7, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


Residents sit in church pews and chairs while waiting for their shots, Sept. 7, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]


A statue of the Virgin Mary stands in front of the Sitio Abunciang chapel in the town of Bani where health workers set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, Sept. 7, 2021. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]

In remote areas of the northern Philippines, health workers have fanned out to far-flung communities to inoculate residents who have been hesitant to receive COVID-19 shots.

Health workers used motorized canoes to reach villages near the town of Bani, Pangasinan province, in the northwestern coast of Luzon, the country’s largest island. 

“I’m glad residents here have welcomed and overcome their fear of the vaccines,” Dr. Ariel Estrada, who leads Bani’s health unit, told BenarNews.  

“There will always be hesitancy about the vaccine. But once people have more information about it … the more they want to get the vaccine. It’s the low supply of vaccines we worry more about,” Estrada said. 

Villagers, many of whom rely on fishing to survive, welcomed the arrival of the vaccination team.

Village official Albert Peralta said people had hesitated to get the vaccine “maybe because of what they hear from the news and mostly from social media. 

“The first time we tried to convince them to get vaccinated, only a handful wanted it,” Peralta said. But that was changing, he added, because having a vaccination card is helping villagers preserve their livelihood. 

“Many here don’t want to lose their jobs again, particularly the drivers who transport fish and agricultural products to other places where they will ask for a negative COVID test results. Now, they can just show their vaccination card and they will be allowed to travel,” he said. 

Mayor Gwen Palafox-Yamamoto said residents who return home after traveling for work are often responsible for COVID-19 infections.

“Those who work in other towns or cities, these are the people we want to inoculate as they are the ones bringing the virus to their families,” she told BenarNews. “We just hope the national government would supply us with more vaccines to inoculate essential workers. This is the only way to curb the spread of the COVID-19 here.”

On Wednesday, the health department reported 12,751 COVID-19 infections and 174 deaths in the previous 24 hours. Since the pandemic began, more than 2.13 million Filipinos have been infected and 34,672 have died.


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