An initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines from China is expected to arrive in the Philippines in February, raising hopes that Manila could catch up with the rest of the world with its own immunization program. But what happens if you forfeit your place in queue?
Not all Filipinos are eager to take COVID-19 jabs. Results of a Pulse Asia survey showed that nearly half or 47% said they would not get vaccinated against the virus, citing safety concerns.
Under the government's COVID-19 immunization plan, frontliners and the elderly are among those who are first in line for jabs.
Vaccination is not mandatory and should an individual who is slated to get a COVID-19 jab decide to forego his or her opportunity, Malacañang said the person would have to wait in line like the rest of the public.
"Parang mayroon nang consensus – wala pong pilitan, wala kasing pilitan. Pero magsa-sign ka ng waiver na hindi ka nagpaturok," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Those who are included in the government's priority list for COVID-19 vaccines will also lose their "priority" benefit if they forego the shot.
"At kapag ikaw ay mayroong prayoridad, siyempre mawawala ang prayoridad mo. Sasama ka doon sa the rest of the taumbayan na naghihintay ng bakuna," Roque said.
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The policy, according to Roque, was brought about by the fact that the Philippines is dependent on the global supply of vaccines and does not have the luxury to choose vaccine brands.
"Tama lang naman po iyan ‘no, walang pilian kasi hindi naman natin maku-control talaga kung anong darating ‘no at libre po ito ‘no. Pero ganoon po iyan, there is such a thing as waiver of a right," Roque said.
"Totoo po, mayroon tayong lahat ng karapatan para sa mabuting kalusugan pero hindi naman po pupuwede na pihikan dahil napakadaming Pilipino na dapat turukan," he added.
Based on the government's immunization roadmap, some 50 to 70 million Filipinos are targeted to be vaccinated this year if the global supply permits.
Roque also said on Monday that an initial 50,000 vaccine doses from China's Sinovac will arrive in February, part of the full order of 25 million. The Philippines has also signed vaccine deals with British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and US drug maker Novavax.