Transparency in COVID-19 vaccine process to improve Filipinos' confidence — pharma group

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 8) — With many Filipinos doubting the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines or PHAP says educating the public is key to allaying their worries.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Exchange with Rico Hizon, PHAP President Dr. Beaver Tamesis says Filipinos' lack of confidence in vaccines has long been present even before the Dengvaxia controversy even broke out, noting the dengue vaccine had only intensified people's hesitancy.

Recent surveys revealed many Filipinos are unwilling to get vaccinated against the coronavirus even if doses become available in the country, due to safety concerns.

"Yes, I anticipated that that would be the response. That just tells us tama yung dapat gawin natin [what we need to do] in the vaccines' rollout [is right] which is really education of the masa [masses], of the community when we actually have it," commented Dr. Tamesis.

Dr. Tamesis cited his group's experiences with vaccines they have sold before, wherein they converted low confidence rates into levels past 90% by sitting down with different stakeholders and educating them on the concerned vaccines.

"Everybody has to be involved. Doctors, the city mayor, the city health officer, association of retired persons, all of these civil organizations have to be involved," said the medical expert.

Dr. Tamesis also emphasized the role of openness regarding vaccine production, as the process normally takes at least a decade. Manufacturers across the globe have been simultaneously developing vaccines against the highly contagious virus in record speed, driven by the urgency of the pandemic which has infected tens of millions and claimed the lives of many.

This has also led to people questioning the vaccines' safety, particularly what side effects do they really bring, he added.

"Kaya importante yung transparency, yung nilalabas lahat ng resulta, pinag-uusapan sa scientific journals," Dr. Tamesis said. "The scientists can weigh in, the clinicians can study the side effects that are coming out before they will say that 'yes, okay tayo rito' [we're okay with this]."

[Translation: That's why transparency is important, wherein all results are released and discussed in scientific journals.]

Meanwhile in terms of vaccine distribution, a hospital group encourages coordination with local governments in executing vaccination efforts.

"I understand our country is used to vaccinating only what, 1 to 2 million a year," said Metro Pacific Hospitals Holdings Inc. President & CEO Augie Palisoc, noting the national government's vaccination target is a "huge logistical challenge."

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said the country aims to secure 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines this year, which will vaccinate around 50 to 70 million Filipinos by year-end if things go as planned.

Palisoc, whose group owns Makati Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, and Davao Doctors Hospital among others, also said they have been preparing their personnel for upcoming vaccination efforts.