News Release

Palace urges public to listen to vaccine experts

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr, in his January 18 press briefing, encouraged Filipinos to listen to true vaccine experts instead of those claiming to be experts with regard to vaccines.

“Pag-ingatan natin kung sino pakikinggan natin. Uulitin ko po, ang proseso para maging expert, kinakailangan ipakita kung meron ka bang specialized na pinag-aralan para maging expert. Kung meron ka bang karanasan sa specialized field na iyon. … ‘Wag po tayong maniwala doon sa mga lima-singkong eksperto,” said Secretary Roque.

The Palace official stressed this point in view of the varying opinions of so-called experts with regard to a vaccine’s efficacy and safety. Likening the process to that of establishing the credibility of an expert witness in trial, Secretary Roque said that the same process should be applied when listening to experts with regard to COVID-19 vaccines.

“Tingnan hindi lang dapat doktor, meron ba silang specialized training as vaccinologist or as infectious [disease] specialist … At bukod diyan, is gaano na katagal silang nagprapractice, nagtuturo ba sila, mayroon na ba silang mga sinulat na artikulo, bago po natin sila paniwalaan bilang experts,” stressed Secretary Roque.

In the said press briefing, Dr. Rontgene Solante, an infectious disease specialist from San Lazaro Hospital, explained that a vaccine’s efficacy rate is not consistent with any population. Dr. Solante said that a vaccine’s efficacy will also vary depending on the target population that will be vaccinated.

Solante, who is also a member of the government’s Vaccine Expert Panel, said that a higher immune response is expected among the younger population, while a 50 to 60 percent efficacy rate is acceptable in older age groups.

On the threshold of efficacy, Dr. Solante explained that it was the World Health Organization that sets the minimum vaccine efficacy to 50 percent based on a percentage of individuals who will be vaccinated to control a particular pandemic. Solante said that in establishing efficacy threshold, a mathematical modeling is used, which shows that a vaccine with at least 50 percent efficacy when used in 60 to 70 percent of the population, will be enough to control an ongoing pandemic in a particular country.

Solante also underscored that any vaccine that was granted approval to proceed to Phase 3 trial is considered safe as it has undergone Phase 2 trial wherein a vaccine was able to establish that is able to produce an antibody against the virus.

The infectious disease specialist also cautioned against associating an adverse effect with a vaccine as these reports have to be investigated carefully. Solante said that a severe adverse event can only be seen within two months after getting inoculated with a vaccine. That is why it is best to roll out a vaccine after at least 60 days to see whether the vaccine is associated with any adverse effects, said Solante.

On another matter, Roque announced the signing of Executive Order No. 123 “Modifying the Rates of Import Duty on Certain Agricultural Products Under Section 1611 of Republic Act No. 10863, Otherwise Known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.”

“Ito ay ayon na rin po sa rekomendasyon ng National Economic and Development Authority or NEDA Board kung saan nagrerekomenda po sila [ng] pag-maintain ng tariff rates para sa mechanically deboned meat of chicken and mechanically deboned meat of turkey,” said Sec. Roque.

Added Roque, “Ang alinlangan po ng iba kapag hindi po na-extend itong mababang five percent tariff rates sa mga produktong ito, baka tumaas po ang presyo ng mga delata na gumagamit po ng deboned meat.” ### OPS-PCOO