COVID-19 vaccines

FALSE: Filipinos are COVID-19 vaccine guinea pigs

Rappler
FALSE: Filipinos are COVID-19 vaccine guinea pigs
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. did not say Filipinos were guinea pigs for the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines have undergone the necessary clinical trials and have been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA.
At a glance
  • Claim: Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said that Filipinos were guinea pigs for the COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: There are no official reports of Duque or Galvez saying that Filipinos have been used as guinea pigs for the COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines have undergone the necessary clinical trials and have been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. 
  • Why we fact-checked this: This claim has been shared 983 times on Facebook and uses a video of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo to supposedly prove that it is true. 
Complete details

A post by the Facebook user “Ronnie Ricks” on July 14 features a video clip from Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo’s RTVM segment “Counterpoint.” In the clip, Panelo says that the slow vaccine rollout is because the first few people who received the vaccine are “guinea pigs” for the rest of the population. 

He said: “Kasi, sabi ni [Health Secretary Francisco Duque III] at ni [vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.], hindi nila kaagad lahat. Bakit? Kasi titingnan nila ‘yung mga nauna kung mayroong adverse effects. Hindi nila ‘binubuhos lahat. Kumbaga, sila ang mga guinea pigs. Paano kung matindi ‘yung mangyari sa kanila after the bakuna? Alangan namang ituloy mo pa? Kaya dinadahan-dahan nila.”

(It’s because, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., they did not vaccinate everyone right away. Why? Because they need to see if the first few people who are vaccinated experience adverse side effects. They’re not pouring all the vaccines out. In a way, they are guinea pigs. What if something bad happens to them after they are vaccinated? It would be unfit for us to keep going. That’s why they’re going slowly.)

Facebook user “Ronnie Ricks” said in his caption that the term “guinea pigs” came “straight from the horse’s mouth.” His post has been shared 983 times. 

Another Facebook user, “Abid Rjrp,” shared this post in August on his own newsfeed and two other pages that have 5,346 and 10,551 followers, respectively. He encouraged people to watch Panelo’s video so as not to be a part of the plan to “endanger or kill people.” 

This claim is false. 

There are no official reports of Duque or Galvez saying that Filipinos are guinea pigs for the COVID-19 vaccines before the time that Panelo’s “Counterpoint” episode aired. The COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the necessary clinical trials and have been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The Philippines rolled out its vaccination program on March 1, while Panelo’s “Counterpoint” episode aired on March 23. During that time period, there were no reports of Duque or Galvez saying the first Filipinos who were vaccinated were considered “guinea pigs” for the rest of the population. 

Instead, Duque said in March that the slow vaccine rollout was because it was just getting started. He also said that the government could not speed up the vaccination of healthcare workers, because if they experience adverse side effects all at the same time, there would be a shortage of workers who could attend to COVID-19 patients. He also advised President Rodrigo Duterte against bringing the vaccines directly to the poor population, not only because of logistics, but because there would be a lack of manpower for monitoring adverse reactions. 

Meanwhile, Galvez said in a statement on March 14 that the government’s COVID-19 immunization program was on track. 

The World Health Organization says that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe because they’ve all undergone rigorous testing in clinical trials before the WHO and national regulatory agencies approved them.

Moreover, the FDA has given emergency use authorization to all eight vaccines available in the Philippines. The FDA’s October 17 report said that only 0.13% of administered doses led to suspected adverse reactions, while 0.006% of administered doses led to serious adverse reactions. – Vernise Tantuco/Rappler.com

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