After large crowds swarmed vaccination centers in the cities of Manila and Parañaque for limited doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, leading to fears of preference for a particular brand turning vaccination sites into super spreader events, the Department of Health has come up with the idea of pushing for a “brand agnostic” immunization campaign.
“What we’re going to enforce now is brand agnostic (vaccination). What should be announced is: ‘go and whatever vaccine will be available, you get it,” said Health Undersecretary and Vaccine Operations Center chief Myrna Cabotaje in a television interview on Wednesday.
“If (recipients) do not like the vaccines during that time, then they go to the end of the line,” Cabotaje added.
The mad rush to avail of the limited quantities of the Pfizer vaccine that have trickled into the country is an indication of the lack of trust in the Philippine government’s preferred brand and if the DOH wants its vaccination program to be successful, that eroded trust in its choices has to be countered with a massive public education program promoting the safety and efficacy of all vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Instead, the DOH is choosing the easy and counterproductive way out by skipping the necessary step of education and going straight to forcing a “brand agnostic” vaccination program that risks violating the basic principle of informed consent.
The country’s Covid-19 vaccination program that has inoculated less than 3 percent of the population, so far, is just starting and hiccups are to be expected as we trudge towards the goal of herd immunity. A government that dropped the ball on procuring the vaccine brand that it turns out more Filipinos are confident in cannot expect to counter vaccine hesitancy by resorting to less transparency when more of it is an obvious pillar in building trust and confidence in Covid-19 vaccines.
We already dropped the ball when it came to procuring the vaccine brands it turns out more Filipinos have confidence in. Government cannot afford to drop the ball again when it comes to convincing Filipinos that the other vaccines, while they may not be the first choice, are still fine.
A successful brand agnostic vaccination may be the goal, but it is not the solution at this point in time when the trust in both the vaccines and the government responsible for procuring and rolling it out has not yet been established.*