THE PRESIDENTIAL Palace on Monday hit vaccine decliners for circulating a video clip of President Rodrigo R. Duterte discouraging the public from getting a COVID-19 booster shot, saying it was recorded at a time when the goal was to increase the number of fully vaccinated people. 

“At that point, 21 million of our countrymen were fully vaccinated, and our priority was to increase this number, which is why the provision of booster shots had yet to be approved,” Palace Spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in a statement.

In his regular public address on Sept. 30, the President told the public not to get more than two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, saying it could endanger their health and deprive others who have yet to receive their first dose. 

“Two doses are enough. Don’t take excessive doses, it is dangerous,” Mr. Duterte said in Filipino at the time.

“The situation today is now vastly different,” Mr. Nograles said, noting that the government approved the use of booster doses last November “as we had ample supplies of vaccines and a substantial percentage of our population was already fully vaccinated.” 

The spokesman also pointed out that Mr. Duterte encouraged the public in a Dec. 21 address “to ‘take advantage’ of the country’s sufficient supply of vaccines against COVID-19 and get their booster shots to control the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.” 

Adults have been allowed to get their booster shot three months after being fully inoculated with either a two- or single-dose vaccine. Earlier this month, the government tapped private clinics and pharmacies for the administration of top-up shots.

The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated almost 57.3 million people as of Jan. 23, while nearly 59.8 million have received an initial dose, data from the Health department showed. Almost 6.3 million booster shots have been administered, it added.

Meanwhile, Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida V. Rueda-Acosta said the Health department should improve benefits for those who experience adverse effects from the vaccine.

Ms. Acosta, who has publicly admitted to being unvaccinated against COVID-19 and was at the forefront of complaints filed in connection with deaths allegedly linked to the Dengvaxia vaccination program, said she is not against inoculation. 

“I am not anti-vaccine, 91% of the 3,000 PAO employees and my eldest son are fully vaccinated,” Ms. Acosta said, citing medical conditions as her reason for not getting any of the available COVID-19 vaccine brands. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and John Victor D. Ordoñez