MANILA: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday cited the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines, dismissing claims of public reluctance to be vaccinated against the disease.
“Right now, we don’t see much reluctance to vaccinate (COVID-19) in the Philippines. In fact, the problem is that the supply of vaccines cannot meet the demand, ”Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative in the Philippines, said during a virtual press briefing on Monday.
He added that while there was initial hesitation over vaccines in the Philippines – triggered primarily by a dengue vaccine controversy in 2018 – regarding COVID-19 injections, many Filipinos were ready to be vaccinated.
“We know that the Philippines has traditionally been reluctant to get vaccinated. What we are seeing now is that people are anxiously waiting to receive vaccines, ”said Abeyasinghe.
“So it is not a question of hesitation with regard to vaccines, (but rather a problem) of preference for a particular brand of vaccine,” he added.
Abeyasinghe explained that the WHO was “very encouraged” by the deployment of the vaccine in the Philippines, where more than 4 million vaccines had been administered on Sunday. Despite the launch of his vaccination campaign in March this year and difficulties in accessing most of the vaccines needed for the campaign, Abeyasinghe said the government’s vaccination program was “commendable”.
“Overall, we are very encouraged by the deployment of the vaccine. Over the weekend, I think, we passed over 4 million (vaccine doses administered), and we’re closing out over 1 million fully protected people now. So it’s very encouraging, ”he said.
The increase in the number of COVID-19 vaccines used by the Philippines has placed it in 37th place in the global ranking of countries that have administered COVID-19 vaccines so far.
However, while some Filipinos wait to be inoculated with specific brands of vaccines, especially those made by the United States, Abeyasinghe said that “it doesn’t matter what vaccine one receives” because all vaccines with a emergency use authorization (EUA) were “safe and effective.”
“These vaccines are widely used to prevent serious illness and death, and we know that all vaccines do this effectively … We are not advocating preference for either brand,” he said. declared.
Infectious disease specialist Dr Edsel Salvana, University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, agreed, telling reporters that all EUA vaccines were “very effective” against serious illnesses – the most important result for vaccines.
He stressed that from a scientific point of view, “the best vaccine that can be obtained is the one that is already available”.
Meanwhile, following reports of illicit sale of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination windows, Malacanang spokesman Harry Roque told the press conference that such measures were being taken. banned “because no vaccine has yet been approved for commercial use and all were just under EUA.”
Roque also warned that those who allegedly sold their vaccination slots could be prosecuted.
Last Saturday, the National COVID-19 Task Force (NTF) reminded the public that vaccines are free for all registered citizens.
“They are not for sale. Thus, the sale of vaccines or priority niches is considered illegal and punishable by law, ”he said in a statement.
The NTF added that it was “deeply concerned” by reports of the alleged sale of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine locations, with the Philippine National Police (PNP) launching an immediate investigation into the matter on the orders of the Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano.
Citing the report’s initial findings, PNP Chief General Guillermo Eleazar said immunization slots were offered in various parts of the Philippines at a price ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 pals, depending on the brand of the vaccine.
On Monday, Eleazar said police identified a person who gifted two brands of vaccines to his friends, at a cost of Philippine pesos 12,000 ($ 250) to Philippine pesos 15,500, through a social media messaging app.
The same person, he said, claimed to have contacts in local administrations in San Juan and Mandaluyong, presenting deposit slips as proof of his previous “transactions”.
“Our CIDG and ACG investigators are now focusing on this person, although he has already deactivated his social media accounts. We assure the public that they will face the full force of the law for this type of illegal activity, ”Eleazar said.
The PNP chief called on the public to report to the police any illegal transaction relating to the sale of vaccines and vaccination slots.
Meanwhile, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora has also warned the public not to fall prey to “online scams.”
“We have free vaccines for everyone living in San Juan or working in San Juan. There is no reason for them to pay, ”he said in a radio interview on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.