Don’t like the COVID-19 vaccines from the government? Then don’t take it.
This was how Senate President Vicente Sotto III weighed in on the much-criticized remarks of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that Filipinos cannot be choosy on the brand of coronavirus vaccines under the government’s free inoculation program.
“It has two sides, eh. Kasi kung ano available, gamitin na natin — ganoon ‘yong mentality na sinasabi nila ng spokesman ng Presidente. (Let us use whatever is available — that was reportedly the mentality of the President’s spokesman). On the other hand, mayroong sinasabi na ‘Eh kung ayaw ko, ayaw ko niyan’ (some are saying that they have the right to refuse).”
“Ako naman ang dali ng sagot ko doon: ‘Eh ‘di huwag, ayaw mo pala, eh’. Di ba Bakit mo ipipilit? Ayaw, eh. (Personally, my answer would be simple: ‘Then don’t get it if you don’t want it’. Why would you force it to them when they don’t want it?),” Sotto said during the online Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday.
The Senate chief said the public should “not make a big deal” out of Roque’s statements.
“Sikat lang ‘yong ginamit na term ni Secretary Roque na ‘Don’t be choosy’. Salitang kalsada ‘yon eh, kaya cute na pakinggan at pag-usapan. But in practical terms, ‘Ito ang available, ito ang ibibigay na natin sa inyo ngayon…Ayaw mo, eh ‘di huwag. Sino may gusto?’…Ganon lang ‘yon, eh,” he said.
(Sec. Roque only used a colloquial term: ‘Don’t be choosy’. That’s why it was cute to hear and talk about it. But in practical terms, it only meant: ‘This the available vaccines, this is what we will give you right now. If you don’t want it, then don’t get it. We’ll give it to someone else who wants it’. It’s as easy as that.)
“Because it’s up to the person talaga (really), because government will not impose it, but government will make it available as soon as possible,” he added.
Still, Sotto said frontline health workers should be allowed to choose which vaccines will be administered to them without having their priority status forfeited.
“I think they have the right, frontline healthworkers sila, eh (because they are frontline health workers). I think we should allow them. Kung di nila type ‘yon, hintayin nila ‘yong kasunod (If they don’t like the vaccine initially offered by the government, they can wait). Pero (But) they should not be placed at the bottom of the list,” he said.
“Pag may dumating na bago nasa [priority] list pa rin sila, dahil frontline health workers sila, eh. ‘Yong mga senior citizens, na tulad namin, kung ayaw, maghintay ka doon sa dulo (If the other brands of vaccine arrive, they should still be in the priority list, because they are frontline health workers. Senior citizens like us who don’t want the vaccines can wait at the end of the line),” he added.
On Monday, Roque said those in the priority list for the government’s immunization program could not afford to be picky with the brand of vaccines that they would receive, saying several others want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
He beneficiaries who would refuse must sign a waiver renouncing their priority status in the inoculation program.
Several senators also disputed Roque’s statements, saying it could worsen the public’s aversion to the vaccination.