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Social media scourge shows as thousands flock to vaccine sites

People hoping to be vaccinated gather outside the inoculation venue in a Manila mall. RICHARD REYES/FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Thousands of Filipinos flocked vaccination sites in several parts of Metro Manila on Thursday (Aug. 5) in the middle of curfew hours.

In past months, similar scenes had been reported when Pfizer vaccines arrived. But this time around, the reason for desperation to get vaccines might no longer be about vaccine brands.

What drove those people to rush to vaccination sites at the break of dawn? Was it simply their desire to get vaccinated or was it fear or worry over word spreading that the unvaccinated would be sent home if found in the streets?

What happened?

According to reports from the Manila Police District (MPD), around 19,000 individuals went and tried to get vaccines in different sites in the city.

Police also found out individuals from Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna, and Rizal who were among the crowd.

“They came in many groups, they came in many vans,” the Manila police investigators said.

While Manila City offers walk-in vaccinations for the public—even for non-residents and non-workers in the capital city—it is still mandatory to register online.

Unfortunately, most of those who went to the vaccination centers said they had no idea about online registration requirement.

READ: At least 19,000 individuals flock Manila’s COVID-19 vaccination sites

The herd also insisted on lining up and waiting at the sites despite being told about the cutoff for walk-in.

READ: Manila vaccine sites reach early cutoff as walk-in vaccinees come in droves to beat lockdown

The same thing happened in Las Pinas City.

In some videos posted online by a netizen, people were seen lining up amid the curfew—some even disregarding health protocols like social distancing.

In an advisory, the city of Las Pinas said it would no longer allow queues in vaccination sites during curfew hours or between 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Mahalagang paalala.#FightingCOVID19 #OurHome #TuluyTuloyNaSerbisyo #LasPiñeroDisiplinado #LigtasNaLasPiñeroLahatBakunado

Posted by City of Las Piñas on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

In a separate statement, the city government said that the vaccination will resume during enhanced community quarantine from Aug. 6 to 20.

However, only those who registered online and have secured their patient ID number and QR code will be accommodated.

The city government said only senior citizens are allowed to line up for vaccines without the QR code.

It said those wanting to get inoculated should register at bit.ly/LasPiñasVaccination,

Magpapatuloy po ang bakunahan sa lungsod kahit tayo ay nasa ilalim ng Enhanced Community Quarantine. Ngunit ang mga…

Posted by City of Las Piñas on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Fear looms large

So what was the reason for the sudden surge in vaccination sites?

One reason, according to a government official, was the apparent “no vaccine, no ayuda (aid)” rumors circulating on social media.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority MMDA chief Benhur Abalos dispelled what he described as “fake news.”

“To set the record straight, the distribution of ayuda and benefits or privileges is not anchored on whether an individual has been inoculated or not,” he said.

READ: MMDA: ‘No vaccine, no ayuda’ rumor caused ‘unruliness’ at jab sites in Manila, Las Piñas

The people who assembled at the vaccination centers also said they felt it urgent to get vaccines following reports that the unvaccinated would not be allowed outside their homes during the ECQ.

Last week, the Department of Health (DOH) already clarified that vaccination status is not the qualification for being outdoors during the lockdown in Metro Manila.

“There will be no distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals,” said DOH spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire.

“No differentiation between vaccinated and unvaccinated,” she said. Only persons authorized outside their homes, based on definitions by the government, would be allowed to go out, she said.

READ: Who can go out? DOH says ‘no distinction’ between vaccinated, unvaccinated

However, Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday (Aug. 2) criticized a supposed proposal from the government’s pandemic task force to bar unvaccinated persons from “certain places.”

READ: ‘Utterly wrong:’ Sotto hits restrictions vs unvaccinated persons

In Lapu-Lapu City, an executive order issued by Mayor Junard Chan imposes such restrictions.

The order bars unvaccinated people from shopping malls, convenience and grocery stores, and public markets starting Aug. 25.

A backlash from Lapu-Lapu residents prompted the city government to revoke the controversial order, according to Malacañang on Tuesday (Aug. 3).

READ: Palace: Lapu-Lapu City revokes order to ban unvaccinated people in commercial centers

READ: City mayors in Cebu impose stricter curbs

The Palace has already issued a statement, clarifying that it is not yet time to impose a “no vaccine, no entry policy” in establishments since there are still a lot of people who have yet to receive their doses.

READ: Palace: Not yet time to impose ‘no vaccine, no entry’ policy in establishments

President’s pronouncements, threats

Despite the Palace’s stance on the issue, President Rodrigo Duterte himself, however, had said he wants police and village captains to escort unvaccinated persons back to their residences.

“Those who do not want to get vaccinated, I am telling you, do not go out of your houses. If you go out, I will tell the police to escort you back. You will be escorted back to your house because you are a walking spreader,” Duterte said partly in Filipino last July 29.

“If they refuse to get vaccinated, barangay captains should not allow them to leave their house,” the President added.

This was not the first time Duterte said such pronouncements.

In May, amid continuous vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos, the President advised persons who refuse to get vaccines to just stay at home.

“We cannot force you but if you don’t want to be vaccinated, don’t go out of your houses so that you will not infect other people,” Duterte said.

READ: Don’t want to get vaccinated? Stay home — Duterte

READ: 61% of Pinoys say no to vaccines; safety concerns cited top reason — Pulse Asia

The following month, Duterte again threatened those who refuse to get vaccinated. This time, the president said those who hesitate to get their vaccine shots may be arrested.

“They are hard-headed. Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I will have you arrested. And I will inject the vaccine in your butt. [CURSES]. You are pests. We are already suffering and you’re adding to the burden,” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino.

READ: Those who refuse to get vaccinated vs COVID-19 may be arrested, Duterte warns

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified that is no law to compel anyone to get vaccinated.

“I believe the President merely used strong words to drive home the need for us to get vaccinated and reach herd immunity as soon as possible,” Guevarra said.

“As a lawyer, he knows that not getting vaccinated is a legal choice. There is no law as yet that compels vaccination against COVID-19, much less criminalizes it, as presently available vaccines are still in their trial phases,” he added.

READ: No law against refusing to get vaccinated, says Guevarra

As usual, Duterte’s Cabinet came to the rescue, explaining the intentions behind Duterte’s statement.

“As far as arresting those who won’t get vaccinated, we have no such policy,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said, speaking partly in Filipino.

“When the President said that, I think he already explained that he said it in the context of, as it were, a sense of exasperation.”

READ: Duterte just exasperated: No arrest policy for those refusing vaccination – Nograles

Blame the “fake news”

Still, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday quashed speculations that it was Duterte’s past pronouncement that led to the overcrowding in Manila and Las Pinas vaccine sites.

“I don’t think so. I think some no-good people are spreading fake news,” he said.

“I don’t know why they haven’t got COVID-19 yet but anyway don’t believe in fake news,” he added.

READ: Panic-vaccination? Palace says fake news to blame, not Duterte

What the numbers say
A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released last month said around 45 percent of Filipinos are now willing to get vaccinated against SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

GRAPHIC FROM SWS

This is higher than the numbers released by SWS in May, which showed only 32 percent of Filipinos were willing to be inoculated.

The percentage of respondents who were uncertain also dropped, from 35 percent in May to 24 percent by June.

READ: More Filipinos willing to get COVID-19 vaccine, latest SWS survey shows

GRAPHIC FROM SWS

Data presented by Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje on Tuesday (Aug. 3) showed that a total of 11,840,504 individuals from A1 to A5 categories have already received their first dose.

The number of those who have already completed their required full doses has reached 9,369,625.

Overall, as of Aug. 2, at least 21,210,129 vaccine doses have been administered in the country.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 infections in the country continues to rise.

DOH on Thursday logged 8,127 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the active tally of coronavirus cases in the country to 66,895 and the total confirmed COVID-19 cases to 1,627,816.

READ: COVID-19 death count in PH reaches 28,427 with 196 more deaths

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Metro Manila under ECQ from August 6 to 20

Metro Manila ECQ curfew hours: 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.


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