MANILA, Philippines — The government is embarking on a nationwide information drive on vaccination against COVID-19 to counter what it described as “fake news” about vaccines, an official said yesterday.
Philippine Information Agency (PIA) director-general Ramon Cualoping III said a series of town hall meetings with health workers’ groups and local governments would be held this week to discuss the government’s vaccination program.
He said the government’s vaccine cluster has allowed communication teams to go to priority areas to explain how the administration intends to carry out the COVID-19 inoculation.
“Previously, we conducted CODE (coordinated operations to defeat epidemic) visits to explain, explain, explain to the people the mechanisms on how to avoid COVID-19. Now, we will also go around the Philippines again to state the plan of the national government with regard to the vaccines,” Cualoping said at a televised press briefing.
“We know that fake news is spreading... We will talk to our stakeholders, the local government executives, sectoral leaders...But I think the most important is our coordination with our health care workers,” he added.
Cualoping said the meetings with the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine Nurses Association would be held on Thursday and Saturday.
The Presidential Communications Operations Office and state-run media outlets Radyo Pilipinas, PTV-4 and IBC-13 would also be involved in the information campaign, he added.
“We need to have the health care workers as partners because they are our frontliners who will talk to the people about vaccines,” Cualoping said.
Meanwhile, some officials said they would take COVID-19 vaccines from China only if instructed by the national government.
The officials, who spoke on condition they are not named, said they will look at the vaccines from other pharmaceutical companies for their families.
People from poor communities should not worry if their local officials could not procure their own COVID-19 vaccines as the national government is ready to step in and provide them with safe immunization brands, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said yesterday.
DILG spokesman Undesecretary Jonathan Malaya gave the assurance in response to concerns that poor local government units (LGUs) would not be able to purchase vaccines of their choice.
Malaya explained that the vaccines would be examined by a panel of medical experts and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the vaccines are safe.
The Department of Health (DOH) also reiterated that COVID-19 vaccines to be chosen by the government would be safe and effective.
AtIn a briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rasario Vergeire said if a vaccine is given emergency use authorization (EAU) by the FDA, it means that it underwent a regulatory process and has been approved for use in the country.
“This is how the government is choosing the vaccines that it will procure… All the clinical trials that manufacturers have conducted for their vaccines, we study them all thoroughly,” Vergeire said.
In another development, Sen. Bong Go said the national government is targeting to start the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the first quarter of 2021.
“Right now our national government expects that, hopefully, before the end of the first quarter, we will be able to start injecting. We just make sure the vaccine is safe to buy, ”Go said.
Go, chair of the Senate committee on health, said he would see to it that the poor and vulnerable sectors will be prioritized for the vaccine.
However, he continued to urge the government to ramp up its information dissemination campaign to build vaccine confidence among Filipinos.
“The info campaign should be intensified, and every Filipino should understand what the benefits of this vaccine are because many of our kababayans still have fear and attitude. Teach, you go first because they are still afraid,” he said, referring to vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. – Sheila Crisostomo, Emmanuel Tupas, Cecille Suerte Felipe