Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH has started conducting town hall meetings with experts who discuss the safety and efficacy of vaccines. (PCOO)
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health is letting experts do the talking to address people’s fears over COVID-19 vaccine safety.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH has started conducting town hall meetings with experts who discuss the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
“We have our experts talk to assure people that all our vaccines were given the EUA (emergency use authority) and these are all deemed to be safe because of the evaluation done,” Vergeire said partly in Filipino during an interview Wednesday night with “The Chiefs” on One News channel.
She cited a recent survey that shows a high 34 percent of the population are uncertain whether or not to get vaccinated against COVID.
“We try to analyze the results, we looked into why they are uncertain and the topmost answer is that they fear for the safety of this vaccine. They fear they might die, they fear that their current illnesses will worsen after vaccination,” she revealed.
Thus, she said, the DOH is letting experts talk to people and assuage their fears.
She pointed out that the country has recorded a low 0.14 percent “serious” adverse events following vaccination, which shows that the benefits of getting the vaccine really outweigh the risks.
The DOH and the Vaccine Cluster issue vaccination policies, guidelines and protocols following the scientific assessment and recommendations of these independent bodies after a rigorous review of available evidence. The DOH gave assurance that vaccines undergo a stringent regulatory process – from selection, procurement, to administration, vaccines undergo the evaluation and scrutiny of different experts to ensure their safety and efficacy.
Noting the high risk COVID posed on the elderly and those with comorbidities, top government officials reiterated the need for Filipinos aged 50 and above to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
In a meeting with President Duterte last Wednesday, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III noted that only a small percentage of senior citizens, or those above 60 years old, have been inoculated with the vaccine.
Since March, Galvez said only 11 percent of the country’s senior citizens got vaccinated. Seniors are under the A2 category of the national vaccination plan, second in priority of the government.
He noted though that about 90 percent of healthcare workers, who are on top of the government’s priority listing, have already been inoculated.
Citing statistics, Galvez pointed out that more than 60 percent of fatalities come from the elderly sector, the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
He said he has been coordinating with Duque, co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, to also boost the campaign efforts to encourage senior citizens to get their jabs.
“We need to be protected. We are really working to convince senior citizens and people with comorbidities to have the courage to get the vaccines,” he added.
As of 2020, reports said 8.2 million of the country’s 110 million population are in the 60 and above age group. About five percent of the population are aged 65 years and above.
On the issue of vaccine hesitancy, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the government is doubling efforts to address the concerns of the general populace on the efficacy of the vaccines.
“We are not yet alarmed because we have not received all our (procured) vaccines,” he said in a press briefing yesterday. “Until we have received population protection, no one will be safe.”
During his report in Malacañang, Duque cited a case fatality rate of 0.41 percent for Filipinos aged from below one year old to 49 years old while those at 50 to 80 years old account for 5.38 percent of the case fatality rate.
“This is equivalent to 16,543 deaths over 307,720. This is the main reason why we need to prioritize the elderly or the senior citizens under our vaccination program,” the health secretary said.
Galvez reported that there are 4.495 million Filipinos vaccinated as of May 26, and that the country already breached a record 237,984 jabs a day based on statistics.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said the proposal of some restaurant owners to require a vaccine pass for immunized senior citizens is now under discussion, noting that the DOH is open to the idea.
“We are very much open to that if we can have full evidence for that because this can also incentivize other people to get vaccinated if it will become a requirement in entering mall establishments, restaurants,” she added in the same One News interview.
She said a vaccine pass for immunized senior citizens is being recommended by Metro Manila mayors, noting that this policy is already enforced in other countries.
However, Vergeire said further studies may be needed before the government could adopt such a policy.
She hopes that the DOH would be able to come out with a recommendation concerning the proposed vaccine pass policy in the coming weeks, assuring that there is nothing to worry about if the government would re-open the economy since necessary safeguards are being put in place. – Mayen Jaymalin, Christina Mendez
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