COVID-19 vaccines

IBP stresses right to informed consent amid government’s ‘brand agnostic’ vaccine policy

Vernise Tantuco
IBP stresses right to informed consent amid government’s ‘brand agnostic’ vaccine policy

VACCINATION. Residents of Marikina City receive their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Marikina Sports Arena during the initial rollout of the vaccine on May 20, 2021.

Rappler

'[Non-prior public disclosure of vaccine brand] does not and should not take away the right to informed consent,' says Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Domingo Cayosa

The non-prior public disclosure of a COVID-19 vaccine brand may be practical, but it does not take away a citizen’s right to informed consent, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Domingo Cayosa said on Saturday, May 22.

Cayosa’s statement was a response to the Department of Health (DOH) urging local government units (LGUs) this week not to publicly announce which vaccines will be offered at specific sites in order to avoid crowding in these areas.

The DOH’s suggestion was made following incidents wherein hundreds queued in sites across Metro Manila for a chance to get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Thursday, May 20, directed all LGUs to refrain from announcing the vaccine brands used at particular centers. The policy is also known as the “brand agnostic” policy.

“Non-prior public disclosure of vaccine brand may be a practical measure only to avoid delays, undue hedging, and overextended lines for a preferred brand in the government’s free vaccination program,” Cayosa said on Saturday.

He added: “It does not and should not take away the right to informed consent as the citizen must be individually appraised before vaccination about the brand and other details to enable him/her to intelligently consent to or decline the offered vaccination. The Department of Health has publicly recognized the right to informed consent.”

The DOH has assured the public that information on the vaccines, as well as the type of shot that will be offered to them, will still be made available once people are at the vaccination sites.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated this at a Laging Handa press briefing on Saturday, saying, “Pagdating po nila sa vaccination site, they will be counseled. Sasabihin sa kanila kung anong brand ‘yon, and sila po ay bibigay ng informed consent – if they will consent to being vaccinated.”

(Once they reach the vaccination site, they will be counseled. They will be told what brand will be used, and they will be the ones to give informed consent – if they will consent to be vaccinated.)

Cayosa encouraged vulnerable sectors to have themselves vaccinated, and called on Filipino lawyers and IBP chapters to help the government and private institutions.

“Let us support the many and perhaps better ways of encouraging vaccination,” he added. “Creativity, clarity, consistency, transparency, sincerity, and unity will help us prevail. Let us help each other to overcome this pandemic.”

At the Laging Handa briefing on Saturday, Vergeire said that there are still high rates of vaccinations despite the “brand agnostic” policy.

She and Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim of the DOH Technical Advisory Group also said that although brand preference is one of the causes of vaccine hesitancy, all vaccines available in the Philippines went through a stringent regulatory process that ensures they are safe and effective.

Vergeire said: “So ito pong preference for vaccine, kailangan maintindihan ng mga kababayan natin na mayroon tayong race against time, ika nga, na sinasabi ng ating mga eksperto. Kailangan sa araw-araw na tayo ay nagbabakuna, tumataas ang mga numero na nababakunahan natin so that we can be able to reach the end, na bababa po talaga ang mga kaso ng mga naoospital at namamatay dito sa ating bansa.”

(So when it comes to this preference over vaccines, our countrymen need to understand that we are in a race against time, as our experts say. Every day that we have vaccinations, the number of vaccinated individuals needs to increase as well so that we can be able to reach the end wherein the number of cases in the hospitals and deaths will drop.)

A recent Social Weather Stations survey released on Thursday found that only 32% or 3 out of 10 adult Filipinos are willing to get vaccinated. 

The government aims to begin vaccinating economic frontliners and indigent Filipinos, A4 and A5 on the vaccine priority list, after May. 

As of May 18, some 2.5 million Filipinos have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the DOH. – Rappler.com

Vernise Tantuco

Vernise Tantuco is on Rappler's Research Team, fact checking suspicious claims, wrangling data, and telling stories that need to be heard.