Whichever brand crosses the line first, any Covid-19 vaccine for Pinoys should be administered to some high-ranking officials first. This is how the Duterte administration can allay fears and anxiety on vaccine safety.
Dengvaxia’s bitter aftertaste
The story begins in 2017, when the Dengvaxia controversy broke. That one needs no introduction, but there’s merit in reminding that the fiasco led to an immunization scare. Some pin the 2019 measles outbreak on the political circus it spurred, and now in 2021 at the height of a pandemic, we face very concerning numbers when it comes to vaccine confidence.
According to a Pulse Asia survey, “Almost half or 47 percent of Filipinos said they will not get vaccinated against COVID-19. Only 32 percent showed a willingness to receive the vaccine while 21 percent are still undecided.”
It’s not about being choosy
Instead of alleviating doubts on Covid-19 vaccine for Pinoys, Malacañang pushed back at critics by saying we shouldn’t be choosy when it comes to brands. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque drew criticism from as high as the Senate for his remarks.
Indeed, this is no time to be combative. Officials should instead do their best to instill confidence in people – regardless if they’re first up or in the back of the line.
Time to shine
As of writing, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr has said Pfizer (USA), SinoVac (China), AstraZeneca (UK) vaccines could arrive on Philippine shores as early as February 2021. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved Pfizer for use.
So who should go first? Galvez has reiterated that medical frontliners will be first in line for vaccination. However, given the cloud of doubt cast over the general public, there is value in a public showing. USA President-elect Joe Biden received his first dosage even before Christmas. Indonesia’s Joko Widodo has done the same.
In our case, some say President Duterte, at his age, should not risk the jab this early. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have top officials do it. Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III comes to mind as a prime candidate. That should even boost his popularity, after going as far as being asked to resign by no less than Senator Manny Pacquiao. Roque, too, who has been front and center of the discussion, should roll up his sleeve first. Galvez as vaccine czar should also step up. Senator Bong Go already planted this in people’s minds as early as December 2020.
Who do you think should take the Covid-19 vaccine for Pinoys first?