The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday clarified that health workers will not lose their priority status in the COVID-19 vaccination program even if they refuse the vaccine developed by the Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the decision of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) to recommend the Sinovac shot for health workers does not make it mandatory.
“Binibigay natin ngayon sa healthcare workers the decision if they want to accept it or not. Maaari naman nating ibigay sa ating healthcare workers because ‘yung ating objective of reducing morbidity and mortality, maa-achieve pa rin natin,” she said in a virtual briefing.
“Let’s say for example dinecline niya, then eligible pa rin naman siya doon sa susunod na tranche ng vaccine na darating,” NITAG member Dr. Maria Consorcia Quizon added.
Under the COVID-19 vaccine prioritization list, frontline workers in healthcare facilities, senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities are first in line for inoculation.
NITAG member Dr. Nina Castillo-Carandang encouraged health workers to consider getting the Sinovac jab.
“We always look to our healthcare workers for good examples of how to take better care of ourselves. If our healthcare workers are reluctant to accept vaccination, then that also sends a signal to the general public,” she said.
“So we’d like to offer this opportunity for healthcare workers, if they’re willing to do so, to have themselves vaccinated with Sinovac… because we don’t know yet as to when the next vaccines of whatever brand are coming to the country.”
Vergeire also underscored that the FDA’s emergency use authorization for Sinovac, which indicates that it is not recommended for health workers due to its lower efficacy rate of 50.4% in the said group, does not prohibit its use on medical professionals.
“[It] is not a contraindication nor a recommendation born of concern over the vaccine’s safety… It was never a question of the vaccine’s safety but a question of rational use of available resources,” she explained.
The 600,000 Sinovac doses are expected to arrive on Sunday but the DOH said logistical details of the rollout are still being finalized. — DVM, GMA News