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WHO backs Philippine government’s ‘brand agnostic’ policy

WHO backs Philippine government's 'brand agnostic' policy

MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday expressed support for the Philippine government’s policy not to disclose in advance the brand of COVID-19 jabs to be given in vaccination sites, saying it would help prevent the crowding of people which may increase the transmission of the virus.

WHO representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said all COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing deaths and severe diseases.

“It doesn’t actually matter which vaccine you’re receiving. So we should try to manage the situations where people (congregate) and (create) situations where transmission may increase,” Abeyasinghe said at a press briefing.

“And if not announcing the vaccine brand will help with that, I think this is a correct step in the right direction because this will help us to manage these kinds of super spreader events from happening and will also encourage people to accept the vaccines that are being rolled out. So we are supportive of this effort,” he added.

Last week, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte himself ordered agencies not to reveal in advance the brand of vaccines to be administered in vaccination sites after seeing the crowding of people in places that received jabs developed by American drug maker Pfizer. Critics of the policy insist that people have the right to know what type of vaccine would be injected on them.

Abeyasinghe said the WHO does not see a lot of vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines.

“Actually, the issue is that the vaccine supply cannot meet the demand. We know that the Philippines has traditionally had some vaccine hesitancy. What we are seeing now is that people are eagerly ready to receive vaccines and it is in some situations, local governments unable to keep up with the demand,” the WHO representative said.

“So it’s not actually an issue of vaccine hesitancy. There are many in some places preference for brand A or B of a vaccine, that should not be interpreted as vaccine hesitancy,” he added.

Abeyasinghe reiterated that the government should follow the vaccine prioritization set by the COVAX facility.

“The COVAX facility committed to provide vaccines to cover 20 percent of the population of the Philippines and indeed, all countries that signed on to the COVAX facility, and that 20 percent of the population was determined to be the frontline healthcare workers and the elderly population,” Abeyasinghe said.

“The COVAX facility vaccines are used to maximize the impact on the pandemic by reducing deaths, by ensuring that the frontline healthcare workers are actually protected and reducing congestion in the hospital settings,” he added.

Roque urged the public not to be choosy with vaccine brands, saying all jabs approved by the government are effective and safe.

Asked why Duterte was allowed to get a vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinopharm even if it has yet to secure an emergency use authorization from Philippine regulators, Roque replied: “Let’s put it in context. The President did not choose a stateside brand. He also chose a Chinese brand.”

“Our problem now is it seems that many people prefer stateside vaccines. So I think the vaccination of the president with a Chinese vaccine will also bolster confidence on Chinese-made vaccines,” he added.

Vaccine infomercial

At the same press briefing, Roque said Duterte would study whether a joint advertisement with Vice President Leni Robredo would be helpful in convincing the public to avail of COVID-19 vaccines.

Robredo, the leader of the opposition, has expressed readiness to do an infomercial with Duterte to address vaccine hesitancy.

“It will really depend on the president, and the president will assess,” Roque said.

“It will depend on the president’s assessment if the participation of VP Leni Robredo would be helpful in building vaccine confidence. But based on our experience, and this is backed-up by a study by PSRC (Philippine Survey and Research Center), the most effective campaign against COVID so far is ‘mask, hugas, iwas (wear mask, wash your hands, observe physical distancing),’ which showed our President towards the end of the ad,” he added.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 19, 2021 – 2:21pm

The national government has so far secured two official deals for COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the Philippines, one with Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac and another with the Serum Institute of India.

Watch this space for bite-sized developments on the vaccines in the Philippines. (Main image by Markus Spiske via Unsplash)

May 19, 2021 – 2:21pm

Vice President Leni Robredo has been vaccinated against COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Quezon City.

Robredo, who received her first dose of the AstraZeneca jab, is in the A3 ( people with comorbidities) category.

May 7, 2021 – 6:46pm

The Department of Health announces the resumption of the use of AstraZeneca jab for all eligible population following the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration and the DOH All Experts Group on Vaccines.

The health department urges the public to get their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“The benefits of additional protection against COVID-19 could only be achieved by completing both doses of the vaccine,” the DOH says in a statement.

May 7, 2021 – 10:53am

The regional health minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said there is no basis for insinuations that COVID-19 vaccines are forbidden in Islam.

Medical workers from the Integrated Provincial Health Office-Maguindanao gave Bangsamoro Health Minister Bashary Latiph a Sinovac anti-coronavirus jab Thursday.

Latiph reiterated his appeal to residents in all cities and provinces in BARMM to ignore fallacies and assertions on Facebook by skeptics and pessimists who are not even medical practitioners that vaccines can do more harm than good.

“Listen only to BARMM’s Health Ministry, to the Department of Health and to health workers in provinces and in cities in the Bangsamoro region,” Latiph told reporters after he got an anti-COVID-19 shot. — The STAR/John Unson

May 5, 2021 – 9:51am

The Philippines approves the application of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

Food and Drug Administration Director general Eric Domingo says it only took nine days to review the emergency use authority application.

“The known and potential benefits of Moderna, when used to prevent COVID-19, outweigh the known and potential risks of the said vaccine,” Domingo says during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

May 3, 2021 – 7:14pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has been vaccinated against COVID-19, reportedly with the Sinopharm vaccine.

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