The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday warned the public against falsifying documents and lying about comorbidities just to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Lying about having an illness is considered a violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases, said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
“We will also look for other laws that may be used in such incidents.
When we falsify illnesses, especially in cases where it’s going to be on public record, there are corresponding penalties. We are violating existing laws in the country,” Vergeire said during a press briefing.
“Don’t go with that strategy. You don’t need to do that. Let’s just wait until the vaccines arrive and we will all get vaccinated,” she added.
Vergeire said that while instances of people lying to get vaccinated show that there is a high interest in the COVID-19 inoculation campaign, the prioritization list must still be followed.
“You don’t need to fake your documents...You will get a vaccine because that’s your right,” she said.
Local authorities in the cities of Cebu and San Juan caught some people lying about comorbidities to get vaccinated.
Currently, only health workers, senior citizens, persons with comorbidities, and essential workers are eligible for vaccination due to the limited supply.
Persons with comorbidities must prove that they have a medical condition through a recently issued prescription, medical certificate, or laboratory test result.
The Philippines has vaccinated over 4.6 million individuals as of June 8, still far from the government’s target of inoculating 58 million people in COVID-19 hotspots this year.
In related developments:
* Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said fully vaccinated individuals should keep their vaccination cards as the government prepared a digital identification system to verify the COVID-19 vaccination status of an individual.
“I think in a few weeks, around one month, we will complete this digital card, and hopefully a QR code system also system wherein the vaccine ID will be centralized and consolidated and in digital form,” Lopez said in a Laging Handa public briefing Friday.
This, as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) now allows fully vaccinated individuals aged 65 years old and above to go outside their residences.
Lopez said the vaccine card would serve as proof for individuals in the said age group that they already completed their Covid-19 vaccine so that they will be allowed to enter establishments.
Individuals aged 65 years old and above are not allowed to go outside their residences as they have the highest risk to develop severe COVID-19.
Lopez added that the IATF already approved the principle of allowing non-authorized persons outside residences (APORs) to go outside their houses two weeks after they completed the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We believe in the vaccine, but we should also believe in the vaccinated,” Lopez said.
With this development, the DTI chief is optimistic that the country's economic recovery will continue as well as operations of establishments in the economic sector.
“Hopefully, we can get back to our growth momentum prior to the pandemic,” Lopez said.
* The Philippines has received an additional 2.28 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines from the COVAX Facility, the global collaboration which ensures equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
This is the biggest batch of Pfizer vaccines from the facility that arrived in the country.
The vaccines will be administered to those who are not fully vaccinated and those belonging to priority groups A1 to A3—healthcare workers, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said: “We will use these vaccines among our A1 to A3 priority groups. If we don’t vaccinate them we will encounter the same packed emergency rooms, unavailable intensive care units, and even hospital beds during the next surge."
“If you are already in the priority group but have not yet registered with your local government unit (LGU), please contact your LGU to get vaccinated. I urge everyone to choose to be vaccinated when it’s their turn to protect themselves and their loved ones," he added.
“While the DOH and the local government units have been making significant progress in vaccinating our healthcare workers, prioritizing the elderly and those with underlying health conditions is essential and needs to be accelerated, ” said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines.
In a statement, the US Embassy in Manila said more shipments of much-needed COVID-19 vaccines would continue to arrive in the Philippines in the few weeks and months ahead.
“The United States is committed to leading the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And we will continue to support the Philippines’ vaccination and COVID-19 mitigation efforts as its reliable friend, partner, and ally,” US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law said.
The shipment will be shared between the cities of Cebu, Davao, and Manila. Of the more than two million doses that arrived, 1.86 million will go to Manila, 210,600 to Cebu, and 210,600 to Davao.
The delivery was the second tranche of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines delivered to Manila, following the May 10 arrival of an initial 193,050 doses. To date, the Philippines has received more than five million vaccines through COVAX.