MANILA — Filipinos who will refuse the government-issued vaccine against COVID-19 will be put at the bottom of recipients' list, losing their chance to be inoculated early, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.
During the health department’s town hall meeting on the COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said while everyone has the choice to freely choose their COVID-19 vaccines, the country is still under a state of public health emergency.
“Ang napag-usapan, kung kayo po ay tatanggi, we will have to put you at the bottom of the list and we will give it to the next person in line as part of our priority. Hindi po natin ipipilit, very simple consent actually kaya nga lang po, mawawala ang chance niyo,” Vergeire explained, noting that the DOH understands the reason why Filipinos want to choose their vaccines.
“You would go to the bottom of the line and the next time na puwede na kayo uli magpabakuna ay yan po kapag pagdating ng susunod ng delivery at kapag tapos na po ang sektor na kabilang po kayo,” she added.
(If you refuse to be vaccinated… We will not force you. That’s very simple, but you will lose your chance to be vaccinated. You could only be vaccinated once the next batch of deliveries arrive and after your sector.)
Vergeire’s statement came as criticism mounted over the government’s suggestion to the public to just accept whatever vaccine brand is available during the inoculation drive.
The health official also said Filipinos who will refuse inoculation cannot demand to be included on the priority list if the next batch of vaccines is delivered in the country.
“Kaya lang hindi po namin kayo puwede ilagay na… dumating yung another vaccine, kayo na ang priority, hindi po, hindi po ganun ang mangyayari. Uunahin natin yung iba pa pong priority population natin,” she said.
“Hindi namin sinasabi na diretsahan na hindi ka puwede mamili kasi may informed consent naman po kayo, you will have to give us the consent kung gusto niyo yung bakuna or hindi.”
Recent surveys revealed public hesitancy to join the government's vaccination drive.
A Pulse Asia survey conducted last year showed that nearly half or 47 percent of Filipinos will not have themselves vaccinated against COVID-19 due to safety concerns.
A study by the OCTA Group released on Jan. 5, on the other hand, showed that only 25 percent of Metro Manila residents were willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
‘Isipin ang kapakanan ng komunidad’
Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, said Filipinos should think of vaccination as a means to protect oneself and others from COVID-19, which has already killed over 9,000 in the country.
“When you accept a vaccine for whatever reason, you are taking responsibility not only for yourself but for your family, the society and the country. Kapag ikaw ay tumanggap ng bakuna, hindi mo lang pinoproteksyonan ang sarili mo, ang iyong mahal sa buhay, iyong pamilya at ang bansa,” Montoya said.
(If you get vaccinated, you do not only protect yourself, but also the people around you including your loved ones and family members, eventually, the country.)
The public should also take into consideration the public health crisis, and being vaccinated against the novel coronavirus would help bring some normalcy, he said.
“Karapatan po natin yun (choosing vaccines), pero sana isipin natin na nakasalalay dito ang malaking kapakanan, hindi lang pang kapakanan ng sarili kundi kapakanan ng ating mga komunidad para tayoy bumalik na to some degree of normalcy.”
(It is our right to choose but we have to think about the welfare of others aside from ourselves. This would at least help our communities to attain some degree of normalcy.)
The Philippines has secured 25 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech, and 30 million doses from the Serum Institute of India.
The country might also receive an initial vaccine batch from SU-based Pfizer and Russia's Gamaleya Institute in February, according to Malacañang.