MANILA - A medical professional on Tuesday urged lawmakers to pass a measure that would punish Filipinos peddling fake information regarding vaccination, as the country continues to battle a surge of COVID-19 infections that stretched hospitals to the breaking point.
In an interview on Teleradyo, Dr. Minguita Padilla, a member of the Vaccine Solidarity Movement, said misinformation on COVID-19 jabs led to several people missing their first dose against the disease.
Padilla said the elderly were mostly targeted by misinformation, noting that the country's fight against the virus has shifted "psychologically."
"Siguro [kailangang] magkaroon ng playbook 'yung gobyerno kung ano 'yung gagawin sa mga ito, sa mga taong nagse-spread ng fake news. Hindi basta-bastang isa-slap on the wrist eh," she said.
(Maybe government needs a playbook regarding people who spread fake news.)
"Dapat mayroong kaparusahan ang mga ito, kasi napakalaking perwisyo sa lipunan yung mga ganito," she added.
(They should be punished because their actions have a huge impact on our society.)
Padilla also hoped that government would act swiftly on the matter since the country's war against the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing.
"Government should really do something more drastic, or more specific or stronger tungkol dito sa social media posts talaga. Kasi nasa giyera tayo, and when you are in a war, may limit 'yung freedoms."
(They should also do something more drastic, something specific or stronger on social media posts. We are in a war, and during a war, freedoms have limitations)
Her statement came after a certain Dr. Romeo Quijano claimed in an interview that COVID-19 vaccines allegedly produce toxins inside the human body.
In response, the Department of Health (DOH) reiterated that there is a "growing number of real-world evidence" showing that "COVID-19 vaccines have led to significant reductions in hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated individuals."
The medical professional also lamented health workers undermining the protection one could get from vaccines.
"Isa sa mga problema ay 'yung aming mga kahanay mismo. Yung mga doctors, because they are doctors eh. When they make pronouncements on social media, naguguluhan ang tao. We have to also police our ranks better," Padilla explained.
(The problems we also encountered include fake news peddlers from our societies, the doctors. When they make such statements, the people are confused)
"Kailangan hindi lang ang mga doctor, ang media, social media, gobyerno. We must sit down and do what other countries are doing... how to address disinformation, fake news para maengganyo ang mga tao at hindi matakot," she added.
(This is multi-sectoral, this is not just the fight of doctors, the media, the government, and people on social media)
She also made the appeal weeks after thousands of residents in Metro Manila flocked to vaccination sites, triggered by the false information that unvaccinated people from COVID-19 would not receive any financial help from the government.
The government denied this information and attributed the development to trolls.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno also revealed that their website was supposedly hacked 133 times before the vaccination chaos happened.
As of Monday, nearly 13.2 million individuals in the Philippines have been fully vaccinated against the disease.
Nearly 17.5 million others, meanwhile, have received their first dose, data from the government showed.