FPIC on COVID-19 vaccines
GENERAL SANTOS CITY — FPIC stands for free, prior, and informed consent. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) requires this before any entity, be it academic or development-oriented, can do research or implement a social development project for and in behalf of indigenous peoples’ communities. This is stipulated in Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra) of 1997. This law seeks to recognize, protect, and promote the rights of indigenous peoples in the country. Ipra also created the NCIP.
Part G of Section 3 of Ipra, under Definition of Terms provides that all members of indigenous communities must express through consensus whether they approve any intervention, be it research or development program “in accordance with their respective customary laws and practices, free from any external manipulation, interference and coercion.” In addition, this consensus must be obtained only after “fully disclosing the intent and scope of the activity, in a language and process understandable to the community.” This part of the law demonstrates the need for external agents to practice basic respect and inclusive approaches in whatever intervention they would undertake in indigenous communities.
Before Ipra became a law, indigenous peoples were used by academics and would-be holders of master’s and Ph.D. degrees to gather important data that will give them a three-letter title afterwards. Indigenous peoples have become mines of precious knowledge, skills and practices for academic researchers. Such researches are extractive, and not beneficial to the people from where the information has been gathered. Extractive researchers leave behind the indigenous communities without even sharing with the latter the results of their studies or the analysis they have made so the communities can also gain from the researches done on them.
Ipra requires all academic or research institutions intending to gather data from indigenous peoples’ communities to obtain the FPIC document from either the local or regional offices of the NCIP. Otherwise, the IP communities where the data are to be gathered can easily prevent academic institutions or civil society groups from doing anything in the latter’s communities without going through the FPIC process.
NCIP also requires the researchers to present the results of the study to the leaders of the IP communities to validate what the researchers have gathered, and to make sure that nothing in the findings or analysis countervails the lived realities of indigenous peoples. This process completes the inclusive approach in doing social development work with indigenous peoples.
FPIC is a highly relevant concept and approach at this period in our history when many communities are struggling amid the prospects of getting COVID-19 infection. Considering the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation about the vaccines, local governments must become more proactive if they want to promote herd immunity in the soonest possible time. Herd immunity to the COVID-19 virus happens when a large portion (about 70 percent) of the community or the “herd” are immune to a disease, preventing its spread. Consequently, whole communities are protected, not just those who have developed immunity to the infection.
Barangay constituents need to be informed freely about the vaccines, what their possible side effects are, how to prepare for them and all other precautionary measures to prevent having some serious negative reactions to the COVID-19 jabs. And all these information have to be given before getting vaccinated. An informed consent can only be given after someone has been oriented in detail in the most simple lay person’s language that is understandable to all probable vaccination recipients.
An FPIC on the COVID-19 vaccine is highly desirable at this time, when people are debating endlessly with themselves on the efficacy of the vaccines, and on their serious side effects. Sadly, our barangay and city governments have not done an FPIC process to quell people’s doubts on the need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
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