The benefits of COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risks, the Department of Health (DOH) stressed on Monday even as it said that Filipinos are not yet mandated to get the shot.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said government officials decided to make COVID-19 vaccination voluntary based on the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“At this stage or this period where vaccines are still at that developmental stage, we cannot mandate people to accept these vaccines because it is still not really completed yet,” she said in an online briefing.
This followed Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr.’s bid to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for eligible individuals through House Bill No. 9252, arguing that herd immunity “can only be achieved by enacting legislation to mandate and promote COVID-19 vaccination.”
The COVID-19 vaccines that have been rolled out or approved by regulatory agencies in the Philippines are still under an emergency use authorization, which is issued for drugs and vaccines during a public health emergency.
Vergeire underscored, however, that the advantages of COVID-19 vaccines outweigh possible risks.
“Ang sa atin pong ina-adhere na prinsipyo ngayon, the benefits outweigh the risk, that’s why we are offering it to the population but it will be their right to decide kung sila ay tatanggap o hindi tatanggap nito base sa pagkakapaliwanag natin sa kanila,” she said.
(Our principle now is the benefits outweigh the risk, that’s why we are offering it to the population but it will be their right to decide if they will get it or not based on how the vaccines were explained to them.)
Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte does not yet have an official position on the matter but added that there is no need for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for now.
Last year, the WHO also said it was better to persuade the public on the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine instead of making vaccination mandatory.
The Philippines has inoculated over 1.3 million individuals as of April 20. —LDF, GMA News