Elderly members of Jama Mapun tribe wary of COVID-19 vaccination, mayor says

Mapun Islands, Tawi-Tawi. Courtesy of Google Maps

ZAMBOANGA CITY(MindaNews / 30 June) — Many of the elderly members of the Jama Mapun ethnic tribe in Mapun Islands municipality are afraid of getting the vaccine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Mayor Suraida Muksin said.

Mapun Islands, previously known as Cagayan de Tawi-​Tawi, received its initial supply of 3,000 vials of COVID-19 vaccines last Thursday. The Philippine Coast Guard transported the vaccines using BRP Tubbataha  (MRRV-4401). The PCG has been conducting humanitarian missions around Tawi-Tawi.

In a phone interview, Muksin said they are having difficulties convincing elderly members of the Jama Mapun to get vaccinated against the virus.

“The Municipal Health Office is set to strengthen its campaign program (to entice the elderly to get vaccinated),” she said.

Muksin said that some 800 health personnel and persons with co-morbidities, and “only a few senior citizens” availed of the COVID-19 vaccination drive in the locality.

She did not give actual figures as to how many elderly members of the Jama Mapun were inoculated.

The elderly believed that it is the call of Allah if one gets infected, the mayor said, noting that if they die, they are immediately buried within 24 hours in accordance with Islamic burial traditions.

Of the 3,000 vials that arrived, 50 Sinovac and 20 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vials were allocated to the military securing the municipality, she said.

Muksin lamented that the municipality does not have a COVID-19 testing facility, with the nearest testing centers in Zamboanga City, which is 20 to 30 hours away by boat.

The other means of transportation, using a four-seater aircraft, is prohibitive at P40,000 one-way, she added.

The municipality recorded a single COVID-19 suspected death, she said.

According to the Tawi-Tawi Inter-Agency Task Force, Mapun Islands has four COVID-19 cases as of June 15 out of the province’s 245 cases since last year.

Mapun Island had zero COVID-19 case in 2020, it said.

Besides the PCG personnel, 55 health workers from the Integrated Provincial Health Office joined the COVID-19 vaccination mission in the municipality.