DOH, UP College of Medicine slam doctor who called COVID-19 vaccines “unsafe”

The health department also chided media outlets that let individuals “use their platforms to spread baseless information that stand to harm Filipinos.”

On Thursday, both the Department of Health (DOH) and the College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines Manila (UPCM) released statements denouncing medical professionals who have been spreading false information about life-saving interventions such as the COVID-19 vaccines.

The statement by the health institutions follows an interview of Dr. Romeo Quijano, a retired professor of UPCM’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, on DZRH’s Dos Por Dos on Wednesday. 

In the interview, which has since circulated on social media, Quijano claimed that the COVID-19 vaccines are “unsafe” and “more dangerous” than the virus itself. He also alleged that a certain group of “influential” people has been keeping the data regarding the vaccines’ adverse effects off of mainstream media.

However, he failed to cite any scientific source that supports his claim, as well as to identify these alleged influential people who are censoring information about the vaccines.

In DOH’s statement, it called such disinformation “ especially responsible as the country continues to face the threat of the more infectious DELTA variant.”

“There is a growing number of real-world evidence globally which have consistently shown that COVID-19 vaccines have led to significant reductions in hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated individuals,” it continued. “Moreover, despite increases in COVID-19 cases in these countries, the same rate of increase is NOT seen in hospitalizations and others.”

DOH likewise called “irresponsible” all media outlets that “allow such professionals to use their platforms to spread baseless information that stand to harm Filipinos, especially those who are in the process of deciding to get vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, UPCM, which also echoed the same sentiment regarding the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, also denied any association with Quijano. 

In its statement in Filipino, the college informed the public that the doctor in question has been retired since 2014, and has expressed claims which are contrary to the beliefs of the current faculty body. The statement also affirms the college’s stance of supporting COVID-19 interventions that are rooted in the accurate collection and interpretation of scientific evidence.

 “Kami ay sumusuporta sa mga pamamaraan ng paglaban sa COVID-19 na naka-base sa siyensya at tamang pagkalap at pagpapakahulugan sa mga ebidensya at impormasyon,” it said. “Base sa aming pag-aaral, ang bakuna ay ligtas at mabisang pamamaraan upang labanan ang COVID-19.”

The statement, which was signed by members of the UPCM Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, also urged people to get their vaccine jabs, and asked those who have uncertainties regarding the vaccines to consult a doctor or a healthcare worker.

On a personal Facebook post, Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the health department’s Technical Advisory Group, said that it is “unfortunate” that there are medical professionals who “subscribe to conspiracy theories and engage in sensationalist propaganda without citing proper evidence.”

“Their credentials as doctors and their willingness to unwittingly drag their institutions into the fray is confusing the public and affecting vaccine confidence. This will ultimately cost lives and prolong the pandemic,” he wrote.

As of writing, the Philippines has administered over 26 million vaccine doses, with around 12 million individuals already fully vaccinated.

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