As the preference of some Filipinos toward Pfizer created congestion in some vaccination sites, Malacanang doubled down on its “brand agnostic” vaccination policy and said that the order for local government units not to announce the vaccine brands they will use came from President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Si Presidente po ang nag-utos niyan kasi nakita niya ang kawalan ng social distancing sa ilang lugar kung saan in-announce ang pagbabakuna ng Pfizer,” palace spokesman Harry Roque said during today’s televised briefing.
Testing czar Vince Dizon also said the same during an interview with The Chiefs on CignalTV's One News yesterday, saying that the order came from the president and will soon be enforced. Dizon said the directive will be formalized as government policy in a meeting today of the Inter-Agency Task Force.
Residents trooped to vaccination sites in Manila and Parañaque after word reportedly got out that Pfizer will be administered. The incident sparked concerns of a superspreader event for COVID-19, and caused logistical hiccups, with those on queue having to wait for many hours before having their turn.
When asked if withholding vaccine brands violates a recipient’s “informed consent” for the jab, where an individual is made aware of all the relevant information before vaccination, Roque sidestepped the question and said that all vaccines were vetted anyway.
“Ang informed consent po ay sasabihan ang ating mga mamamayan na dumaan po sa proseso ang lahat ng bakuna hindi lang sa Pilipinas kundi abroad,” Roque said.
Roque then reiterated the government’s messaging that all vaccines are safe.
“Lahat yan ay dumaan sa masusing pag-aaral at napatunayang ligtas at epektibo,” said Roque.
During the same briefing, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos echoed Roque’s statements.
“May basehan naman po ang sinasabi ng Pangulo na hangga’t maari ay wag nang sabihin. Eto po ay para sa lahat naman ito, para magkaroon tayo ng order dito,” said Abalos.
Pros and cons
Dr. Maricar Limpin, vice president of the Philippine College of Physicians, told PhilSTAR L!fe that “the plan of DOH not to announce the type of vaccine is a good strategy.”
“Anyways, all vaccines passed the WHO criteria & it doesn’t matter what vaccine we shall receive. When we get to the vaccination site, that’s the time we will know what vaccine we will receive,” said Limpin.
Health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon likewise said that all brands are safe and effective, but withholding information may only fuel vaccine hesitancy.
“Hind natin puwedeng sabihin brandless or agnostic kasi lalong tataas ang vaccine hesitancy niyan. At the end of the day, it’s a choice. Ang pagkukulang natin is a massive awareness campaign to say that all vaccines are good.” (With Hannah Mallorca)
(Banner photo by KJ Rosales/The Philippine Star)