MANILA – It was President Rodrigo Duterte who ordered the Department of Health (DOH) to push for the non-disclosure of Covid-19 vaccine brand before inoculation, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte issued this directive to make people overcome the preference for vaccine brands.
On Monday, a huge crowd of Parañaque residents flocked a mall in hopes of getting inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
“Si Presidente po ang nag-utos niyan dahil nakita nga po niya yung kawalan ng social distancing doon sa ilang lugar kung saan in-announce ang pagbabakuna ng Pfizer (It was the President who ordered that because he saw that there was a lack of social distancing in some venues where they announced vaccination using the Pfizer vaccine),” he said in a Palace press briefing.
Roque noted that all Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, regardless of brand.
“Lahat naman po nga bakuna ay pantay-pantay. Dumaan po ‘yan sa masusing pag-aaral. Lahat po ‘yan ligtas at epektibo. Kaya nga po ang pinaka epektibong bakuna yung ilalagay sa inyong mga braso (All vaccines are equal. They underwent intense study. They are all safe and effective. That’s why the most effective vaccine is the one on your arm),” he added.
Amid criticism over Duterte’s new policy, Roque appealed to the public to refrain from being choosy over which Covid-19 vaccine to receive.
“Hinihingi po namin ang pagkakaintindi ng ating mga kababayan. Pero ako naman po maski ako dati ay na-bash dati pa, talagang ang posisyon natin, wala naman talagang polisiya na binibigyan ng pagkakataon mamili (We appeal for the understanding of our countrymen. But even if I got criticized before, our position is that there is no policy allowing anyone to choose their preferred vaccine brand),” he said.
He said that citizens from other countries also have to make do with Covid-19 vaccines that are available.
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. denied that there are transparency issues over the non-disclosure of vaccine brands noting that potential recipients undergo screening to find out which vaccine is most suitable for them.
“Sa screening process pa lang (As early as the screening process), you will be informed by the doctor. Titignan kung ano ang angkop para sa ’yo kasi siyempre may mga prescription ‘yan, may ibang sinasabing doctor baka puwede ito na lang ang gamitin (He or she is going to find out what’s suitable for you because of course there are prescriptions, some doctors say this is better to use for a specific person),” he said.
Meanwhile, Roque assured that the scheduled vaccination of essential workers (A4 category) and indigent Filipinos (A5) will be carried out simultaneously as more Covid-19 vaccines doses arrive in the country.
“Ipagsasabay lang natin dahil kasi naging consensus na talaga at naging utos ni Presidente palawakin na natin yung mga pupuwedeng mabakunahan dahil marami na talagang gustong mabakuna at naiinip nga dahil hindi pa kanilang turn (We are going to do it simultaneously because of the consensus and order of the President to expand categories that can be vaccinated because there are many who want to be vaccinated and people are getting impatient waiting for their turn),” he said.
He also encouraged frontline healthcare workers (A1 category), elderly (A2 category), and persons with comorbidities (A3) to also get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Only frontline medical workers have the privilege of selecting which Covid-19 vaccine brand to receive, he added.
The country now has four brands of Covid-19 vaccines in its inventory namely Sinovac’s CoronaVac (China), AstraZeneca (UK), Sputnik V (Russia), and Pfizer (US).
More than 3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered since the Philippines launched its vaccination drive on March 1.
The Philippines can achieve herd immunity by November this year once it reaches its target of 500,000 jabs a day or 3 million jabs a week, according to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.
The country aims to vaccinate around 70 million Filipinos by the end of the year. (PNA)