Count me among the few thousand fully-vaccinated people in the country. I had my second dose of the Sinovac vaccine last Friday.
I was not brand agnostic in accepting Sinovac. I simply had no choice. If I had, I would have preferred Moderna or Pfizer like several hundred thousand others, some of whom we saw in the crowd that jostled for the few available Pfizer vials in certain vaccination centers last week.
I don’t regret my not waiting for the US-made vaccines to arrive, though. I believed what the doctors said about the best vaccine being the one that is available. Thus, while I did not choose Sinovac, I consented to its being jabbed into my arm, not once but twice, because I let the science conquer my colonial mentality.
Consent. That is the issue against the government’s brand agnostic vaccination policy. To prevent the overcrowding that happened at the vaccination sites that administered Pfizer last week, the Department of Health has prohibited local government units from announcing what vaccines will be administered in which vaccination centers.
The lack of informed consent by the person to be vaccinated suggests deceit. Although the government denies this because a person can supposedly always refuse to be vaccinated, refusal is hardly an option when, after a long wait, he finds himself at the head of the line and there learns for the first time what brand awaited him.
And even if he does back out and goes home, there is no assurance that he will be coming back to take a chance that Pfizer or Moderna is finally available. This will seriously set back the campaign to immunize as many people as possible to enable the country to attain herd immunity.
There is still no substitute to honesty. The government should be forthright with the people instead of filling them with false expectations. If the problem is overcrowding, surely there must be a way to address it without fooling the people.
Here in Cebu City, we ask those who wish to receive the vaccine to register online. I suppose this is also done in the other major urban centers in the country. The city vaccination committee then sends text messages to registrants advising them of their vaccination schedule and venue, which is based I am sure, on established criteria.
We can tweak this by already indicating the brand of the vaccine in the notice. Walk-ins will not be allowed entry to the vaccination site in order to avoid overcrowding. Only those who can show the notices on their phones will be granted access to the vaccination area. If a registrant does not like the vaccine indicated in his notice, he can choose not to show up but his name will be reverted to the bottom of the list.
The government should also launch a parallel campaign to boost the acceptability of the Sinovac and other non-US made vaccines to the people. Make them understand that these vaccines are just as effective as the others. If the campaign doesn’t work, then let them go to Plan B: Import more US-made vaccines.