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Brand agnostic

Last week, news that the government was giving away COVAX-donated Pfizer brand Covid-19 vaccines in certain cities in Metro Manila resulted in a mad rush to the designated vaccination centers. So many people swarmed the centers that had Pfizer vaccines available, that there were worries it had turned into a potential super-spreader event.

The Pfizer flood proved that the Filipinos vaccine hesitancy, a problem that our government has to face if its vaccination program is to be successful, is brand-driven. It would seem that Filipinos do not trust the Chinese brand our government got after the officials responsible somehow dropped the procurement ball as far as the preferred vaccine brands were concerned.

People are not exactly excited about the Sinovac jab but when the first batch of Pfizer vaccines arrived, they rushed to get in line for the limited number of donated vaccines. It became such a problem that our wise leaders have decided that our country’s Covid-19 vaccination program will henceforth be “brand agnostic”.

People, who line up for government-provided vaccines, will no longer be informed of the brand being jabbed beforehand. They are expected to be like the sheep that their government expects them to be and accept their inoculation in blissful ignorance. Only after the mystery vaccine is injected will Filipinos be informed of what went into their bodies.

Instead of working their asses off to get us the brand that more Filipinos are expected to trust in order to counter vaccine hesitancy, or embarking on a massive information and education campaign to convince the country of the safety and efficacy of their chosen brand, our government has taken the easy way out yet again by adopting the brand agnostic vaccine policy.

This brand agnostic vaccination policy wouldn’t work in most civilized and first world countries because, first and foremost, their government officials wouldn’t drop the damn ball. Secondly, the brusque Philippine method unfortunately violates the concept of as informed consent.

According to the USA’s National Center for Biotechnology Information website, informed consent is the process in which a health care provider educates a patient about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a given procedure or intervention. It is both an ethical and legal obligation of medical practitioners in the US and originates from the patient’s right to direct what happens to their body.

If you come to think of it, not telling a person what brand of vaccine they are going to be jabbed with violates the concept of informed consent. If a person who goes to the pharmacy for headache meds is given the choice between branded and generic options, why should our own government deny us the knowledge of the brand of Covid-19 it will be giving?

The issue here is not the efficacy and safety of the vaccines our government has procured, because despite the incompetency that led us to not getting the vaccine brands we were more confident in, vaccine manufacturers are not as incompetent and their products generally work and are all safe. It’s just a matter of trust and percentages because certain brands and technologies do work better but the long and short of it is all the approved Covid-19 vaccines are safe and will provide adequate protection from severe Covid (the type that can hospitalize or kill you).

Sinovac, Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Moderna, Sputnik are all vaccines that have gone through the scientific process. This is not the same as the Ivermectin voodoo magic that is being peddled by politicos and business interests based solely on anecdotal, unscientific information. We need to vaccinate as many Filipinos as we can as soon as humanly and logistically possible. Vaccine hesitancy and brand preferences/availability are challenges that our government has to meet and this brand agnostic policy is the laziest of all the solutions out there.

Filipinos have been trained to lower standards and expectations these past few years. At this point, we are essentially “brand agnostic” when it comes to our leaders. Whether they are effective or safe, good or bad for our country and its future, we don’t care anymore. Heck, if the surveys are accurate, we even trust these comedians despite all the disappointment and failures.

If you come to think of it, this brand agnostic policy when it comes to vaccination is the ultimate test of just how pliant we have become. A people that can be convinced to blindly trust their government with injections into their bodies without complaint, even if the shots were merely donated to their country for their behalf or procured using their own taxes, will vote for anyone they are told to in the next elections.

If we allow our own government to choose what it tells us and what it doesn’t just because it is “for our own good” then we might as well be brand agnostic with everything and stop expecting better services, facilities and infrastructure from our own government.*

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