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The Philippines’ Health Department says it will no longer allow local governments to announce which brand of coronavirus vaccines will be available at inoculation sites.
The move comes after hundreds of people this week lined up at a site in Manila when they found out the Pfizer vaccine would be given out there.
“What we’re going to enforce now is brand agnostic,” Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje told CNN Philippines’ The Source.
From now on, only people already in line at a vaccination site will be told which shot they’ll get and “if they do not like the vaccines that are given during that time, then they go to the end of the line,” Cabotaje said.
On Tuesday, residents lined up outside of the Manila Prince Hotel as early as 2 a.m. for a chance to get one of the 900 Pfizer jabs that the local government announced could be given to walk-ins, reports Rappler.com.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno told CNN Philippines that the preference for the Pfizer vaccine may have been why people chose that specific site out of the nearly 20 in the city.
The Philippines, which has the second-highest COVID-19 infection rate in Southeast Asia, has seven vaccines in its arsenal, but the rollout has been slow. Today less than 1% of the population of 108 million has been fully vaccinated.
China’s Sinovac vaccine, which has an efficacy of about 67% according to a recent study done in Chile, makes up the bulk of the doses available in the Philippines. Meanwhile, only about 200,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine — with an efficacy of 95% — are available, and none of the vaccine produced by Moderna.
Health experts say that people waiting out higher efficacy vaccines, along with rampant misinformation, bad messaging from the government and fresh memories of the troubled 2016 rollout of the dengue fever vaccine DengVaxia that put thousands of children’s in danger, have contributed to vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines.
Earlier this year a Pulse Asia survey revealed that 6 in 10 Filipinos did not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19.