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Roque draws flak after admonishing Pinoys not to be choosy in picking a COVID-19 vaccine

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Jan 12, 2021 8:07 am

Netizens piled on palace spokesperson Harry Roque for saying that Filipinos can't afford to be choosy in picking which brand of vaccine they want to receive from the government. 

"Wala pong pilian, wala kasing pilitan," Roque said during his Jan. 11 press briefing.

Among the first expected doses to arrive in the country will be from China’s Sinovac Biotech, which is slated to deliver 50,000 doses in February. Some netizens, however, are questioning the preference of Sinovac, which is reported to be more expensive and less effective, over other brands.

Roque said people can refuse vaccinations, even those from the priority list, but they need to sign a waiver saying they did so.

"Totoo po, meron tayong lahat na karapatan para sa mabuting kalusugan pero hindi naman po pwede na pihikan dahil napakaraming Pilipino na dapat turukan," said Roque.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a briefing today Jan. 12 assured that all vaccines vetted by the Food and Drug Administration are safe.

"Basta nabigyan na po ng Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) ng FDA of the Philippines, equal footing na po iyan. Kaya hindi po natin kailangan na mamili po tayo ng bakuna,” Vergeire said.

Sen. Ping Lacson said “cockiness has no place in a pandemic situation.”

“Instead of building people’s confidence by starting with a higher efficacy vaccine and accomplish its intended purpose, to tell them they can’t be choosy is definitely not a smart information campaign to promote mass inoculation,” said Lacson.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said “people have the right to be choosy.”

“Mr. Roque, if it is a matter of safety and effectivity, if it involves public money, then the people have the right to be choosy,” Gaite said. “Trabaho niyo at pananagutan niyo sa publiko na siguruhin na ligtas at epektibo yang bakuna. Dapat lang sila maging choosy para sa kaligtasan nila.”

Sen. Risa Hontiveros also slammed Roque’s statement. “Di daw pwede maging choosy, pero ang Presidente mismo namimili pa between Russian & Chinese vaccines,” said Hontiveros. “Dapat ang taumbayan ay malaya ding makakapili. Kalusugan natin iyan.”

Public health expert Dr. Tony Leachon said buying vaccines that people do not like will have a detrimental impact to vaccination efforts.

“Based on surveys , the people have clearly voiced out vaccine hesitancy. The message is crystal clear! They want efficacious and safe vaccines. If the government buys vaccines contrary to the people’s preference , vaccination rate and herd immunity will suffer,” said Leacon, who was once part of the government’s coronavirus task force.

Activist Teddy Casiño said Roque should just assure the country that all vaccines are safe.

Netizens also took issue with Roque, especially after he said "colonial mentality" may have to do with some people's preference for the vaccine of US multinational pharma company Pfizer.

Francis Baraan IV said on Twitter that colonial mentality has nothing to do with the issue.

Bon Triaga Jr. likewise said that Filipinos have the right to be choosy since taxpayer’s money will be used for the procurement.