(UPDATE) Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Thursday people would no longer be informed of the COVID-19 vaccine brand they would get until their arrival in the immunization center.
This would discourage brand preference, which caused long lines in recent days at vaccine sites distributing the high-efficacy Pfizer jab, Año said. Local government units were instructed to stop advertising vaccine brands, he said.
“The best vaccine is the one that is available. Therefore in order to overcome brand preference, LGUs should not announce the brand of vaccine to be used in vaccination centers,” he said.
Should the person refuse the available vaccine, they will be told to go to the back of the line, the interior chief said.
Health Usec. Myrna Cabotaje first suggested the brand-less calls for vaccination to avoid crowding.
"Our health experts have repeatedly said that there is none that is more effective than the other. All of them prevent hospitalization or critical illness from COVID. That is what is important," Año said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked the government to reconsider the new policy, saying it is counterproductive and may even erode public trust on the government's vaccination program.
"Hindi natin mapapataas ang kumpiyansa ng ating mga kababayan kapag kaduda-duda ang ating mga polisiya. Senyales din ito na malaki ang pagkukulang ng DOH sa pagkumbinse sa mga tao na garantisadong ligtas at mabisa ang mga aprubadong bakuna, anuman ang brand name nito," she said.
For her part, Sen. Imee Marcos stressed the need for full disclosure and transparency before one is inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine.
"Informed consent is the least we can give Filipino patients -- they are vaccinated fully aware of the risks, as well as the benefits, involved. How can they even sign a consent form if they don’t know the brand they had?" she said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva suggested that President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo release a “joint public service announcement” to encourage more Filipinos to vaccinate against COVID-19.
“This is the kind of ad that will be effective in convincing a large part of our population that vaccines are safe,” he said.
Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser to the National Task Force COVID-19, said on Twitter that announcing the brand is important.
The Philippines is racing to meet its target to achieve herd immunity in Metro Manila and eight other areas by November this year. At least 500,000 people must be vaccinated daily to achieve this, said Sec. Carlito Galvez, the vaccine czar.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved expanding the immunization drive to the A4 category, which covers economic frontliners and national government frontliners. Currently, the vaccination program covers health workers (A1), senior citizens (A2), and persons with comorbidities (A3).
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