MANILA— The turnout for COVID-19 vaccination remains "high" even as the government ordered the non-disclosure of vaccine brands until arrival at inoculation sites, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said amid concerns that the move would increase vaccine hesitancy.
In a public press briefing, Vergeire said: "'Yung mga past days na nasabing announcement walang announcement [ng brands] mataas pa ang pagbabakuna especially sa NCR Plus Bubble, Nakikita natin na pumupunta pa rin po ang ating mga kababayan."
(In the past few days that there is no announcement of brands, the number of people being vaccinated is high in the NCR Plus bubble. We can still see that there are still people going into the vaccination sites.)
The NCR Plus bubble, which includes Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan, have some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government earlier ordered all local government officials to stop announcing vaccine brands to be used at vaccination sites to prevent people choosing one brand over another.
This followed the reported crowding at vaccination sites that used US-made Pfizer, while those using China's Sinovac had shorter queues.
But some experts and lawmakers slammed the move, saying it may worsen vaccine hesitancy and slash the turnout at vaccination sites.
Even with the order, Vergeire clarified that local authorities have to inform their residents of the vaccine brands once they set foot in vaccination centers.
“Kailangan natin inform ang mga tao na hindi porke hindi in-announce ng local governments ay hindi nila malamaan ang itinuturok sa kanila. Pagdating sa vaccination site, they will be counseled at sasabihin sa kanila kung ano ang brand na 'yun at sila ay bibigyan ng informed consent,” Vergeire said.
(We need to let them know that just because there is this order doesn’t mean that residents won't find out what brand will be used on them when they arrive in the vaccination site. They will be counseled and they will be given informed consent.)
She also urged the public anew to get vaccinated.
"So ito pong preference ng vaccine kailangang maintindihan ng kababayan natin na may race against time. Kailangan sa araw-araw na tayo ay nagbabakuna tumataas ang nababakunahan so we can be able to reach the end na bababa ang kaso ng mga nao-ospital at namamatay sa ating bansa," she said.
(The public has to understand that we have a race against time. Everyday that this vaccination drive drags further, we have to increase our turnout so we could be able to reach the end and decrease cases, deaths, and hospitalizations across the country.)
The Philippines has only vaccinated some 3 million Filipinos, with just over 700,000 fully vaccinated against the disease.
The Philippines needs to vaccinate 58 million of its population to achieve herd immunity.