MANILA — An order for local governments to refrain from announcing which COVID-19 vaccine brands are used at inoculation sites came from President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said on Thursday.
The interior department earlier Thursday directed all local government units to stop announcing vaccine brands scheduled for distribution at vaccination sites.
"Unang-una, si Presidente po ang nag-utos n'yan dahil nakita po niya iyong kawalan ng social distancing doon sa ilang lugar kung saan in-announce ang pagbabakuna ng Pfizer," Palace spokesman Harry Roque said, when asked if Duterte supported the directive.
(First of all, it's the President who ordered that because he saw the lack of social distancing in some areas where a Pfizer vaccination was announced.)
He said Duterte had earlier told the public that they could not choose which vaccine brand they would receive. Duterte had himself chosen China's Sinopharm brand for his own vaccination.
Withholding names of vaccine brands to be used at specific sites has spawned concern that it would violate the medical principle of informed consent, in which health workers educate patients on the risks, benefits and alternatives of a procedure, treatment or drug.
Some also fear that the policy would further erode public trust in the jabs.
"Ang informed consent po ay sinasabi o sasabihan ang ating mga mamamayan na dumaan po sa proseso ang lahat ng bakuna na ibinibigay sa ating mga kababayan," said Roque.
(Informed consent is our citizens are told or will be told that all vaccines given to our compatriots went through the process.)
Leaders of the capital region, home to about 12 million people, are studying if doctors could tell the public which vaccine brand they would take during screening, the first step of the inoculation process, said Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos.
The lack of physical distancing indeed happens when people learn that Pfizer is available at a certain site, he said. This shows that more people are willing to get vaccinated with the brand compared to others.
"I share this with all Metro Manila mayors. Nakita naman po naman talaga namin ito, kung kaya may basehan naman po ang sinasabi ng ating Pangulo na hangga't maaari ay huwag na lang pong sabihin," Abalos said in the same briefing.
(We really saw this. This is why there is basis for what the President says, that as much as possible, let us not say the vaccine brand.)
The Philippines eyes getting 7 vaccine brands, said Roque.
"Napakahirap na kumuha ng 1 o 2 na brand lamang," he reasoned.
(It is very difficult to get just 1 or 2 brands.)
"Hinihingi po namin ang pagkakaintindi ng ating mga kababayan," said Roque.
"Ang pinakaligtas na bakuna ay ang bakunang nasa inyong braso, anumang brand po ‘yan dahil lahat naman po 'yan ay dumaan sa masusing pag-aaral at lahat po 'yan napatunayang ligtas at epektibo," he added.
(The safest vaccine is the one already in your arm, regardless of brand because all of them went through thorough study, and were proven safe and effective.)