WHO cites vaccine rollout to refute ‘hesitancy’ claims

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A health worker inoculates a woman with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, inside a closed cinema in Taguig, Metro Manila, on Monday. (Reuters)

https://arab.news/4vagx-Ellie Aben

Many Filipinos ‘eagerly waiting’ to get inoculated, senior WHO official says

MANILA: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday cited the Philippine’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, rejecting claims of public reluctance to get inoculated against the disease.

“Right now, we don’t see a lot of (COVID-19) vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines. Actually, the issue is that the vaccine supply cannot meet the demand,” Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, said during a virtual press briefing on Monday.

He added that while there had been initial vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines — triggered mainly by an anti-dengue vaccine controversy in 2018 — in terms of the COVID-19 jabs, many Filipinos were willing to get vaccinated.

“We know that the Philippines has traditionally had some vaccine hesitancy. What we see now is that people are eagerly waiting to receive vaccines,” Abeyasinghe said.

“So it’s not an issue of vaccine hesitancy, (but rather an issue) of preference for a particular brand of vaccine,” he added.

Abeyasinghe explained that the WHO was “very encouraged” by the Philippines’ vaccine rollout, where more than 4 million shots had been administered as of Sunday. Despite launching its vaccination drive in March this year and experiencing several challenges in accessing the bulk of vaccines required for the campaign, Abeyasinghe said that the government’s inoculation program has been “commendable.”

“Overall, we are very encouraged with the vaccine rollout. Over the weekend, I think, we exceeded over 4 million (vaccine doses administered), and we are closing on 1 million people fully protected now. So this is very encouraging,” he said.

The increase in the number of COVID-19 vaccines used by the Philippines placed it at the number 37 spot in the global ranking of countries that have administered the COVID-19 vaccines so far.

However, with some Filipinos waiting to be inoculated with specific vaccine brands, especially those manufactured by the US, Abeyasinghe said that it “does not matter which vaccine one is getting” since all jabs with an emergency use authorization (EUA) were “safe and effective.”

FASTFACT

The increase in the number of COVID-19 vaccines used by the Philippines placed it at the number 37 spot in the global ranking of countries that have administered the COVID-19 vaccines so far.

“These vaccines are largely used to prevent severe disease and deaths, and we know that all of the vaccines are doing that effectively … We are not advocating for preference for one or the other brand,” he said.

Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Edsel Salvana, of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, agreed, telling reporters that all EUA vaccines were “very effective” against severe disease — the most important outcome for the shots.

He underscored that from a scientific standpoint, “the best vaccine that one can get is the one that is already available.”

Meanwhile, following reports of the illicit sale of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination slots, Malacanang spokesperson, Harry Roque, said during the press briefing that such measures were prohibited “as no vaccine has received authorization for commercial use yet and all were just under EUA.”

Roque also warned those who were reportedly selling their vaccination slots could be prosecuted.

Last Saturday, the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 reminded the public that the vaccines were free for all registered citizens.

“They are not for sale. Thus, the selling of vaccines or the priority slots is deemed illegal and punishable by law,” it said in a statement.

The NTF added that it was “deeply concerned” by reports of the alleged sale of COVID-19 shots and vaccine slots, with the Philippine National Police (PNP) launching an immediate probe into the matter on the orders of Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano.

Citing the report’s initial findings, PNP Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said that the vaccination slots were being offered in various areas of the Philippines at a price ranging from P10,000 to P15,000, depending on the vaccine brand.

On Monday, Eleazar said that the police had identified one person who had offered two brands of vaccines to his friends, for a cost of 12,000 Philippine pesos ($250) to 15,500 Philippine pesos, through a social media messaging app.

The same person, he said, has been claiming that he has contacts in San Juan and Mandaluyong local government units, presenting deposit slips as proof of his previous “transactions.”

“Our CIDG and ACG investigators are now zeroing in on this person, although he has already deactivated his social media accounts. We assure the public that he will face the full force of the law for this kind of illegal activity,” Eleazar said.

The PNP chief appealed to the public to report any illegal transactions relating to the sale of vaccines and vaccination slots to the police.

Meanwhile, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora also cautioned the public about falling prey to “online scams.”

“We have vaccines for free for everyone from 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.

 

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