(A volunteer from the PRC in Iligan vaccinates a resident of Barangay Digkilaan. PRC/Iligan)

Philippines: Taking COVID-19 vaccines to remote areas in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY —While many people living in urban areas across the Philippines have been inoculated against COVID-19, there remains a significant number of those living in the hinterland of Mindanao who are yet to be vaccinated. This is primarily because many are unable to bear the cost of travelling to a vaccine centre in the main city while others fear getting the vaccination owing to misinformation and lack of awareness. As a result, their families and communities remain vulnerable to the threat of COVID-19.
Oliver Baton, a resident of Barangay Digkilaan, which is a 45-minute drive from Iligan City, shares that transport is expensive and taking a day off from work is a luxury they cannot afford.
“Even if we want to get inoculated, the city is far from here and we would have to spend about 200 Philippine pesos for the fare alone. We’d rather tend to our farms and stores than spend an entire day to get vaccinated and lose our income for that day,” says the 28-year-old storekeeper.

To help Baton and other residents from rural areas, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) in Iligan has been helping the local government to conduct vaccination drives in all 12 villages (barangay) around the city. 

Since the launch of the vaccination drive in January 2022, the National Society has administered 41,959 doses (including first, second and booster shots) in and around Iligan City.
Supporting this effort, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is providing financial assistance to the PRC to acquire equipment for cold-chain storage, personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and medicines. The money is also used to provide a small allowance to PRC volunteers in Iligan.
“Vaccinating those who live in far-flung places is essential for building herd immunity. But, besides the issue of cost and inconvenience, some people refuse to get the vaccine because of fears triggered by misinformation. Until this is addressed, the pandemic may go on for a long time,” says Michelle Emee Vanguardia, the PRC’s health representative in Iligan.