Vaccine preference a setback to achieve herd immunity — Malaya

Published May 21, 2021, 12:14 PM

by Chito Chavez

The people’s brand preference for a particular coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine will hamper the national government’s vaccination program and delay the country’s herd immunity target this year, an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Friday, May 21.

DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya (Photo courtesy of DILG)

DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya made the remark as he justified the department’s order to local government units (LGUs) not to announce what vaccine brand will be used at the vaccination sites.

In a television interview over ANC, Malaya maintained that the country is “not in an ideal situation” to give the information outright that would enable the people to just refuse their inoculation schedule if what will be used is not their preferred brand.

“f we are in a real situation where we have excess vaccines, for example like the US (United States), or if we are not running against time, that would be okay. However, we are running against time. We would want every single individual to be vaccinated at the earliest possible opportunity because we want to achieve herd immunity before the end of the year,” Malaya said.

To counter vaccine hesitancy among the public, the DILG has ordered LGUs to refrain from disclosing the brand of vaccines that they will use for the vaccination program.

The DILG’s directive was done in support of the Department of Health’s call for a “brand agnostic” immunization program against COVID-19 after reports about the public’s high preference for Pfizer vaccine reached authorities, with some individuals swarming vaccination sites to get the jab even without securing a schedule from baranggay officials.

However, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año clarified that the individuals scheduled for vaccination will be informed of the kind of vaccines that will be injected to them.

With the explanation, Malaya noted that “these circumstances make it necessary for us to roll out as early as possible without preference for any brand our vaccination program.’’

He reiterated that all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccines will prevent hospitalization and death so vaccine preference should not be an issue.

Reports revealed that some people still prefer Western made vaccines over those manufactured by other countries.

Despite the COVID-19 vaccine brand preference issues, Malaya stressed that the country’s Pfizer vaccine inventory is not large at the moment but the vaccination rate still rose by more than 100 percent.

He noted that the latest data showed that from the 60,000 to 70,000 daily vaccinations, the vaccination rate is quickly rising to 191,000 but he debunked claims that this was due to the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine supply in the country.

“We have not yet received the 20 million or the huge bulk of deliveries that we just have signed with Pfizer. The vast majority of these [deliveries] are [from] Sinovac and AstraZeneca so we are actually doing well,” Malaya said.

“The brand preference I think is on a small segment of the population which, if allowed to decide to just come to the vaccination center at the time of their convenience, would delay our vaccination program and which you say delay the target of herd immunity,” he insisted.

The DILG official added that a person can wait for their preferred vaccines but it will be contingent on the supply.

“So there is really no set date, you don’t know what is going to happen. As I said, you’re playing lottery with your health, and the health of your family, and the health of your community, and ultimately your country,’’ Malaya emphasized.