MANILA - A number of senators on Thursday opposed the Department of Health’s suggestion to implement “brand agnostic” COVID-19 vaccinations, where names of vaccine brands used at inoculation sites would be withheld, citing the people’s right to be informed about the shot that they are going to receive.
“No way!” was Sen. Imee Marcos’s immediate reaction when asked about the policy, which health officials are planning to implement.
The DOH had come out with such plan following reports of scenes of people flocking to vaccination areas offering US-made Pfizer vaccines. Meanwhile, vaccination sites where China's Sinovac is used have drawn shorter queues.
Marcos, in a text statement, said the public deserves “full disclosure" of the vaccine brand to be used for their injection.
“Every patient has a right to full disclosure and a modicum of transparency. Unang-una, under EUA (emergency use authorization) pa lang ang mga vaccines… Tigilan nila tayo, alam nilang emergency use lang 'yan, unethical na walang patient info and consent, pati pag-aaral ng bisa at epekto ng mga bakuna ay maaalintala kung ikubli nila ang brand! Ano ba talaga ang tinatago?” Marcos said.
(...First, the vaccines are under EUA. Let's not allow this. No patient info and consent is unethical. Even the study of efficacy and effect of vaccine will be hindered if they don't show the brand. What are they hiding?)
Sen. Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, said withholding vaccine brands would only further worsen people’s hesitancy to be inoculated.
What the public needs is clear information about the effectiveness of these vaccines and the danger of refusing to receive it, he said.
“Vaccine agnosticism will not work without vaccine advocacy. We have to educate before we inoculate. Sadly, much still needs to be done in this area. There is only one vaccine against fake news and that is truth told in a convincing manner,” Villanueva said in a text message.
Villanueva said one strong act that would convince the people to get vaccinated is seeing the President and the Vice President in one public service announcement encouraging the public to get vaccinated.
“Ito po ang tambalan ang nakikita nating mabisa na pangontra sa mga fake news (This is the tandem that's effective against fake news). Both are vaccine recipients and are living proof that vaccines do no harm,” the senator said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said what happened at a mall where people flocked for the Pfizer vaccine was proof of the government’s insufficient dissemination of information.
The public’s right to choose should remain, he said.
“Ang problema ay nasa sistema ng vaccine rollout at wala sa choice ng bakuna... Info dissemination ang ayusin upang mawala ang pangamba ng publiko,” Pangilinan said.
(The problem is in the vaccine rollout system and not the choice of vaccine... They should do proper information dissemination to ease concerns of the public.)
Even Sen. Nancy binay is against brand agnostic inoculation.
"In general, as far as the patient's health and rights are concerned, the DOH has to put a high premium on informing those who are to be inoculated as to what type of vaccine, contraindications, side effects, and in this case, what brand of vaccine shall be administered so that people would be aware if having that particular vaccine would merit some precautions on their part,” she said.
In contrast to their statements are the positions taken by other senators.
Sen. Francis Tolentino, for one, is saying that “a vaccine is a vaccine.”
“That’s practical policy as a vaccine is a vaccine. No matter the brand, even Dr Faucci was quoted as saying 'take whatever vaccine that is available,'" he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the United States government was also observing an “agnostic brand” vaccination system.
“That is not a new and unique practice. One reason why the vaccination program in other countries, particularly the US, has become highly successful is that recipients of the vaccines are only informed of the brand of vaccine once he/she is already on site and ready to get inoculated,” he said.
“There is no saying that the choice of the brand is totally disregarded, but those who refuse the vaccine immediately available will have to fall out of line and wait for his/her preferred brand,” he added.
In the same breath, he said forcing a person to be inoculated will be a violation of their right.