President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday vouched for the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to address public hesitancy over immunization efforts.
Duterte gave the guarantee as the Philippines welcomed its first official shipment of COVID-19 vaccines courtesy of China's Sinovac.
"I am giving the guarantee that this is effective, that the efficacy is good, Ngayon, yung ayaw magpabakuna, wala akong magawa para sa inyo," the President said in his first press conference with reporters since the lockdowns last year.
Duterte said Filipinos would not be forced to take a certain brand of vaccine but noted problems on supply. The Philippines is expected to receive COVID-19 vaccines from British drugmaker AstraZeneca this March.
Filipinos who have doubts about getting vaccinated can consult their doctors, Duterte said.
Aside from Sinovac and AstraZeneca, other COVID-19 vaccines expected to be available in the Philippines soon are those from Pfizer, and Novavax. The country is also negotiating to order Moderna vaccines.
Up to the doctor
In his case, President Duterte said he would defer to his doctor on getting a COVID-19 vaccine, citing his age, as he addressed Vice President Leni Robredo's call for him to be the first to get inoculated to boost vaccine confidence in the country.
The 75-year-old Duterte criticized Robredo's call for him to be immunized first against COVID-19, citing his age as an issue. While it is to his "advantage" to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Duterte said choosing the vaccine brand is a matter left to the discretion of his doctor.
"Siya (Robredo) man yung apurado, siya yung mauna. Ako, I cannot just decide. She's young, I am not. I have to defer to my doctor," Duterte said
"Bakit dadramahan pa yang sino mauna. Ako magpabakuna. Ang problema ko, ang doktor ko, may hinihintay," he added.
To boost vaccine confidence, Duterte's top Cabinet officials such as COVID-19 vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Sec. Francisco Duque III are set to receive Sinovac jabs on Monday to kickstart the country's mass immunization program.