Gov't. vows strict vaccine screening after poll result on public hesitancy, report on Sinopharm

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 8) — The government is focused on strengthening the screening process for COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health said on Friday .

Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire responded to a survey that showed nearly half of Filipinos refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She also commented on a foreign news report that the vaccine made by Chinese firm Sinopharm has 73 side effects, including vision loss.

She acknowledged public's hesitation to the vaccine over safety concerns.

"We recognize the fears, mga pangamba, mga pag-aalinlangan ng ating mga kababayan pero kailangan tandaan hindi naman pababayaan ng ating gobyerno ang ating mga kababayan na makatanggap ng mga bakuna na hindi nasala o na-evaluate," she said in a media briefing.

[Translation: We recognize the fears and hesitancy of the public. But we need to remember that the government will not allow Filipinos to receive vaccines that have not been screened and evaluated.]

Vergeire said the government strives for transparency at every stage of review or available information to shore up public confidence on vaccines. Discussions on the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia eroded public trust on immunization.

The Health department said the government is putting additional safeguards in the regulatory process.

A Taiwanese news website reported that the Sinopharm vaccine listed 73 side effects, including loss of vision and taste, and increase in blood pressure. The report quoted the Weibo social media post of Shanghai-based vaccine expert Tao Lina. The post is no longer available.

Vergeire said the FDA will conduct a careful review should Sinopharm apply for clinical trial or emergency use.

"Lahat po ng dokumento, even this apparent 73 adverse reactions, will be reviewed and evaluated by the FDA. Kapag nakita natin it's not appropriate and will not be safe for our population, hindi natin siya bibigyan nitong authority," the official said.

[Translation: All documents, including the report on 73 adverse reactions, will be reviewed and evaluated by the FDA. If we see that it will not be safe, it will not be given the emergency use authority.]

Sinopharm was the unregistered vaccine administered to members of the Presidential Security Group.