Image via Facebook/Manila Public Information Office

The Philippines opened a zoo on Wednesday as a makeshift vaccination center in the hope its elephants and eagles can attract young and elderly people hesitant about getting inoculated against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Manila Zoo was giving vaccinations to young people age 12–17 and the elderly and allowing recipients of jabs to spend time observing its elephant enclosure, peacocks, and more.

“Aside from being safe and also getting vaccinated, the kids can also enjoy the outdoors, the scenery, and the animals that are here inside,” said Joyce Pablo, mother of one of the children being inoculated.

The Philippines has so far fully inoculated about half of its population, but many areas outside the capital region are lagging far behind, complicating efforts to suppress fresh outbreaks of COVID-19.

Daily coronavirus infections have hit records several times this month, driven by the especially contagious Omicron variant, prompting a tightening of curbs on mobility, including a public transport ban for the unvaccinated.

The Philippines has had problems with vaccine hesitancy that pre-date COVID-19, particularly among children.

For his part, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has even threatened to arrest unvaccinated people.

Ray Salinel, a doctor, said the zoo was a great idea to encourage more people to be inoculated.

“After the vaccination of those aged 12–17 years, seniors, and those with multiple illnesses, they can go around the zoo,” he said. “Even if the zoo isn’t completely open, they can enjoy the sights, the peacocks, eagles, and Mali (elephant). They can relax and forget about their problems.” — Reuters