DOH needs team of experts to speak on public health issues — Garin

DOH needs team of experts to speak on public health issues, says Garin

/ 08:31 PM June 18, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) must have a team of experts authorized to speak on public health issues to ensure that information released is based on facts, former Health secretary and Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin said on Tuesday.

Garin said this in a statement after she was asked on ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart regarding allegations that the United States conducted a secret military campaign against China’s COVID-19 vaccines, particularly those made by Sinovac.

READ: DOH: Reuters report needs proper probe

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The lawmaker was asked what the Philippine government, particularly DOH, should do amid these issues seemingly involving the US and China.

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“Admittedly during the pandemic, the voice of the Department of Health was drowned in many fake news that was all over the country and even other countries. What should we do? Accountability should be in place, I believe I had a proposal before […] media outlets should be wary of who to interview, those coming out in the open should be real experts,” she said.

“The Department of Health is a very important institution because they are the voice that the people would like to hear. So the [DOH] should have a team of doctors and or spokespersons who can immediately liaise with real specialty societies and each specialty society can assign a spokesperson,” she said.

According to Garin, demonizing a vaccine does not positively contribute to other vaccines and the entire health program.

“It has been documented several times that when you demonize a certain vaccine, it creates mistrust in all vaccination and public health programs,” she added.

Last June 14, Reuters came out with a report claiming that the US military had an operation meant to discredit China’s vaccines by having social media accounts impersonating Filipinos in spreading rumors about Sinovac.

While Sinovac’s Coronavac was the first batch of vaccines to arrive in the country, US-made Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines were the most-sought after vaccine in the country. According to the Food and Drug Administration, from March 1, 2021, to December 31, 2023, more than 181 million doses of COVID-19 were administered.

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Pfizer had the biggest share of the total vaccines administered with 77 million doses, followed by CoronaVac at 48.7 million doses.

READ: ACT solon wants to probe alleged US Pentagon secret anti-vax campaign

Garin said that the country suffered an “infodemic,” as unvetted information has been easily accessible, putting a strain on the government’s vaccination program.

“[There was] too much information, including false or misleading information being disseminated to the public, which have resulted in mistrust to health programs,” Garin said.

“The impact of fake news and anti-vaccine campaign transcend to even those who are supposed to be protected by vaccines,” she warned.

Garin has been a long-time advocate of vaccine education, urging the DOH several times to create a program that would address hesitancy, which has led to the resurfacing of old diseases that can be avoided through immunization.

Last August 2023, Garin asked why the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has been filing cases against persons who administer anti-COVID-19 vaccines, claiming that the charges are mere “copy-paste” versions of the previous complaints against persons behind the government’s anti-dengue program.

Garin was Health secretary when the government under former president Benigno Aquino III started vaccinating people with the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. The PAO meanwhile has disputed claims that it is anti-vaccine, insisting that they were not behind the erosion of trust in the government’s immunization programs.

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READ: PAO slams anti-vaxxer tag, says it did not erode trust on vaccines 

TAGS: DoH, Garin, Health, vaccine

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