In withholding the vaccine brand from the public until the last minute, the government says its objective is to prevent a repeat of the crowding that occurred when the limited supply of Pfizer/BioNTech jabs was rolled out.
Physical distancing was ignored as even people who were not scheduled for vaccination decided to try their luck and walked into inoculation venues in Parañaque and Manila to get the Pfizer jab. So the national government decided that henceforth, local governments should stop disclosing the vaccine brand to be administered. Under the new setup, people would simply be informed of the brand as they arrive at the site for their jab. If they reject the brand, they will return to the end of the line as they wait for their preferred vaccine.
Several mayors in Metro Manila have other ideas. The problem in the Pfizer rollout was crowd management, according to Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco, so the answer is to improve this aspect of the vaccination program. Walk-ins can be banned, he said. And because the supply of the Pfizer vaccine is still so limited, those who want it must register and reserve online for their shot.
Mayor Marcelino Teodoro of Marikina set up clearly marked lanes for the different brands available in his city, as he noted that there were people who didn’t want Pfizer and accepted any vaccine brand. In Manila, Mayor Isko Moreno’s slogan is, “your body, your choice,” arguing that transparency is the best way to overcome vaccine hesitancy, which remains high nationwide.
Apart from better crowd management, those opposed to the non-disclosure of vaccine brands are calling for intensified information drives, to reassure the public about the safety and efficacy of all COVID vaccines approved for emergency use in the country. The information campaign should also emphasize the urgency of getting vaccinated ASAP with whatever brand comes along.
Health experts have repeatedly said the best vaccine is the one in your arm. This message must be stressed especially as more virulent COVID variants spread from Metro Manila to other regions. Complete and accurate information would make people lose preference for any particular vaccine. Brand preference should disappear by choice, when people see no need for it.
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