MANILA - Pasig City on Tuesday began its COVID-19 inoculation program with only half of the 300 initial vaccination slots filled as some health workers in the city remained hesitant to take Chinese-made jabs.
As of 10:30 a.m., 153 health care workers from Pasig City General Hospital (PCGH) and Pasig City Children’s Hospital (PCCH) have been inoculated with Sinovac jabs, leaving some 147 vaccination slots available, according to PCCH acting administrator Arlene Samonte.
“I was asking some [health workers] and they said, ‘Takot po kami [magpabakuna],’” she told reporters.
(I was asking some health workers and they said 'we're scared to get vaccinated.')
“Probably they are also influenced by a lot of news na kung minsan ay (that sometimes have) no scientific basis also,” she said.
Several health workers have expressed hesitation to get vaccinated with the COVID-19 jabs from China's Sinovac after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they may not be suitable for health frontliners directly exposed to coronavirus patients as the brand has a “lower efficacy rate of 50.4 percent."
An immunization advisory body later said Sinovac may be used for health care workers, concluding it is "safe for use."
But Pasig City COVID-19 referral facility head Dr. Nerissa Sabarre - the city’s first vaccine recipient - said Filipinos should not worry about receiving the Chinese-made jab.
“‘Yung 50 percent efficacy ay good for me na dahil mas magandang may bakuna kaysa wala,” Sabarre said in a press conference after receiving her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
(The 50 percent efficacy rate is already good for me because it’s better than nothing.)
Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor Noel Cruz - who also availed of the Sinovac jab - said he felt safer after receiving the vaccine.
“Any protection na maibigay ay okay na din... Ang tinitingnan ko ay ear, nose at lalamunan, eh nandoon ang virus. With this protection, malaking tulong,” he said.
(Any protection against COVID-19 is okay for me because I examine the ear, nose and throat and that’s where the virus stays. This protection is already a big help.)
Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto said health frontliners and other Pasigueños would not be forced to avail of any COVID-19 vaccine.
“Sa mga nag-aalinlangan pa, naiintindihan din po namin. Huwag po kayo mag-alala hindi po ito sapilitan,” Sotto said.
(For those who are still hesitant, we understand. Don’t worry because we will not force you.)
“‘Wag din natin i-judge 'yung mga health care workers na ayaw pa o natatakot pa,” he said.
(Let’s also not judge health care workers who still don’t want to be vaccinated or are still afraid of it.)
The mayor hopes that public confidence on COVID-19 vaccines would improve as more Filipinos sign up for government’s inoculation program in the coming days.
Sotto had repeatedly said he was willing to be vaccinated with any COVID-19 vaccine brand as soon as the Department of Health announces that government officials may already join the inoculation.
“The best vaccine is the vaccine that is readily available,” Sotto said.
“The best vaccine is the vaccine that we are able to use not tomorrow, but right now.”
Pasig City earlier ordered 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca, which would be distributed to Pasigueños via 16 inoculation sites as soon as the vials arrive.
The local government is willing to spend another P1 billion to purchase additional COVID-19 jabs for the city’s 700,000 residents, the mayor said.