23 February 2022 - Philippines

Save the Children turns to science for handbook to boost COVID jabs in Philippines

Aldrin puts a mask on his daughter

The ‘Little Jab Book’ is first practical guide using behavioural science to help drive the country’s COVID vaccination rates, so health services can get back to delivering routine immunisations for children.

Save the Children has joined forces with two behavioural science research firms to find out why Filipinos have shied away from getting COVID-19 vaccines and to create a handbook launched today to boost jab rates and free up health services for children.

The Philippines has recorded more than 55,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic but only 56% of the population is vaccinated, which has put a strain on the nation’s health services and left millions of children unable to get routine vaccines against deadly diseases.

To address this, Save the Children teamed up with Busara Center for Behavioural Economics and Common Thread to find out why people were not being vaccinated, which led to the ‘Little Jab Book Philippines’ —the first practical guide aimed at fighting COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy using behavioural science.

In-depth interviews with parents and a survey of more than 600 people in Malabon City in Metro Manila and Sarangani Province in southern Mindanao revealed four main obstacles to getting vaccinated: not trusting COVID-19 vaccines, underestimating the severity of the virus, long wait times, and uncertainty around vaccine availability.

The handbook provides practical and adaptable solutions to help health workers, government authorities, and non-government organisations increase vaccine uptake. This includes engaging young people to take an active role on social media platforms to help dispel vaccine-related ‘fake news’ among peers, running ad campaigns with positive testimonials of those who have been vaccinated, and making vaccine registration as easy as possible.

Save the Children’s CEO in the Philippines, Albert Muyot, said:

“We know that ensuring more than 80% of the population gets vaccinated is one of the best measures to protect Filipinos from the ongoing pandemic. Trust in vaccination will also help ensure that vulnerable children get their protection from COVID-19 and other deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.

“But an increased supply of COVID-19 vaccines hasn’t necessarily translated into more jabs in arms. In fact, our research shows that particular barriers in the Philippines stop many from getting their COVID-19 vaccine, even if they know it’s the best tool in fighting the virus. That’s where the ‘Little Jab Book’ comes in—providing concrete and practical solutions to getting as many Filipinos vaccinated as possible, so that our health services can get back to delivering other life-saving services interrupted by the pandemic—including routine child immunisations.”

Allison Zelkowitz, Director of Save the Children’s Centre for Utilising Behavioural Insights for Children (CUBIC), said:

“COVID-19 has strained health services and devastated economies around the world, and has had far-reaching impacts, including on life-saving child immunisation programmes.

“With vaccines now more widely available, we need to identify and understand what stops people from getting vaccinated and engage with that in a practical way. If we don’t understand why they’re hesitant—whether that’s because of inconvenience, specific doubts, or a lack of important endorsements—the vaccines may not reach enough people. If uptake isn’t as good as it needs to be, children and families will continue to suffer.

“We need to support effective roll out campaigns, and the ‘Little Jab Book Philippines’— with its invaluable insights rooted in behavioural science—is an essential tool in making this happen.”

Aimed at low- and middle-income countries, the global version of the ‘Little Jab Book’ was first published in 2021 and has led to the development of several country-specific versions—with Nepal and Kenya due to launch their own practical guides soon.

The U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC)’s own COVID-19 vaccine uptake handbook also drew inspiration from this global initiative, showing the global potential of these practical strategies.

The Centre for Utilising Behavioural Insights for Children (CUBIC) is supported by Save the Children’s Global Centre for Excellence (CoE) in Innovation. The CoE supports innovators in overcoming barriers to scaling their projects by providing capacity building and funding support.

For further enquiries please contact:

Our media out of hours (BST) contact is media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409