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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Presidential aspirant Joey Montemayor understates COVID-19 vaccination numbers, omits context on need for boosters

Presidential candidate Dr. Jose “Joey” Montemayor, who is against mandatory vaccination, claimed that the number of fully vaccinated individuals in the Philippines has not reached 30 million as of early March. This is false.

Mar 11, 2022

VERA Files

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Presidential candidate Dr. Jose “Joey” Montemayor, who is against mandatory vaccination, claimed that the number of fully vaccinated individuals in the Philippines has not reached 30 million as of early March. This is false.

His statement that COVID-19 vaccines can only “produce artificial immunity for three months,” hence the need for a booster shot, also lacks context.

STATEMENT

In an interview with Politiko TV channel on March 1, Montemayor elaborated on his position on the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

He said in part:

Alam niyo po, wala pang 30 million ang napabakunahan. Inflated ang figures nila … E bakit kung talagang marami — 76 million ang hindi vaccinated. In fact, ang vaccination is only artificial, it can only produce artificial immunity for three months kaya nga may booster e. Kasi kung talagang magbibigay ng herd immunity ‘yan, e ‘di dapat wala nang booster.”

(You know, the [number of] vaccinated people has not reached 30 million. Their figures are inflated … If there is really a lot — 76 million [people] are not vaccinated. In fact, vaccination is only artificial, it can only produce artificial immunity for three months. That’s why there is a booster because if [vaccination] can really provide herd immunity, then there should be no booster anymore.)

Source: Politiko TV Channel, Balitang Sapol With Presidential Candidate Dr. Joey Montemayor, March 1, 2022, watch from 8:46 to 9:11

The episode of Politiko TV’s “Balitang Sapol” with the segment on the presidential aspirant was aired live on its Facebook page, which has 992,932 followers. The video has a potential reach of 1.24 million users, based on social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.

Montemayor is running for president under the Democratic Party of the Philippines. According to his website, he is a cardiologist, a medical technologist, an economist, and a lawyer.

FACT

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) show that more than 63.30 million Filipinos — twice more than Montemayor’s claim — have been fully vaccinated as of March 1.

The government is targeting to inoculate 80%, or around 88.8 million, of the total population of 111 million Filipinos. This means around 25.49 million of the target are either partially vaccinated or have yet to receive a single dose.

In response to the candidate’s claim that the reported vaccination figures are “inflated,” DOH said it “stands by the collected data being released regarding the number of vaccinated individuals in the country.”

“This data has been collected by the National Vaccination Operation Center through lists submitted by national vaccination sites throughout the country and referenced through the Vaccine Operation System,” it said. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: What it takes to be ‘ready’ to roll out the COVID-19 vaccines)

The agency emphasized that “all reports undergo validation by the Centers for Health Development who are in charge of implementing, monitoring and coordinating health-related policies and programs to national government agencies as well.”

Vaccine-induced immunity

Health experts also refuted Montemayor’s insinuation that protection from vaccination is only temporary, which is why the country is giving out booster shots.

A booster is an additional dose given to someone who has built enough protection after vaccination to “re-expose [their] bodies to the part of the vaccine that protects against the disease.”

Several health agencies, including the Philippines’ DOH, have recommended boosters in view of new variants of concern, like Omicron, that could affect vaccine effectiveness.

(Read VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Why fully vaccinated people still get infected with COVID-19)

DOH and the Food and Drug Administration authorized boosters for adults aged 18 years old and above at least three months following the last dose of any of the following vaccines: AstraZeneca, Gamaleya Sputnik V, Gamaleya Sputnik Light, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

Those who received the one-dose Janssen vaccine “can get booster shots at least two months after their first dose,” according to the Health Department.

In a March 7 forum, Dr. Nina Gloriani, chair of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Vaccine Expert Panel, said a third dose increases antibodies against more COVID-19 variants and prevents severe disease and hospitalization.

As of March 9, about 10.67 million Filipinos have received a third dose of the COVID-19 jab. This included 3.62 million frontliners in essential sectors, 2.07 million persons with comorbidities, 1.87 million senior citizens, 1.20 million healthcare workers, 845,819 persons who are indigent, and 1.05 million from the rest of the population.

A team of public health experts convened by Meedan, a global technology nonprofit, noted, however, that while vaccine-induced immunity is “reduced” over time, “immunity is still much higher than it would be without the vaccine.”

In an email to VERA Files Fact Check, the Meedan team said: “COVID-19 vaccines are not only being used to prevent the infection itself, they are also being used to prevent severe illness and death. By doing so, infections go down overall.”

Although immunity can come from natural infection, Dr. Melvin Sanicas, vaccine expert and senior medical director at Clover Biopharmaceuticals, explained in an earlier interview with VERA Files Fact Check that “vaccination induces a more robust immune response in a safe and controlled way.”

“Immunity from the virus is very inconsistent and varies a lot from [person] to [person] because you cannot control the viral dose,” Sanicas said. (Read VERA FILES FACT CHECK: PAO chief Acosta wrongly claims vaccinated individuals ‘don’t have immunity’ vs COVID-19)

Health authorities continue to urge the public to get inoculated and practice physical distancing, wear masks, and maintain proper ventilation in their homes or wherever they may be to curb the spread of virus.

“To safely achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, a substantial proportion of a population would need to be vaccinated, lowering the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population,” DOH told VERA Files Fact Check in a March 8 media release.

“With the continuous studies and developments in the studies of our COVID-19 vaccines, there are still uncertainties with the length of protection,” it said, adding that when the country could attain “herd immunity” remains unclear.

(See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?)

 

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Sources

Commission on Elections, List of Candidates

Joey Montemayor, About | Joey Montemayor for President

Department of Health, National COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard

United Nations Population Fund, World Population Dashboard Philippines

Meedan Health Desk, How long does protection last after a COVID-19 vaccine?, March 9, 2022

Australian Government Department of Health, ATAGI recommendations on the use of a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine, March 1, 2022

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots, Feb. 2, 2022

European Medicines Agency, EMA recommends authorisation of booster doses of Comirnaty from 12 years of age, Feb. 24, 2022

Meedan Health Desk, What is a booster vaccine, why is it needed, who’s eligible, and how does it work?, July 19, 2021

Department of Health, When Can I Take My Booster Shot?, Feb. 18, 2022

Health Technology Assessment Council, BOOSTER AND ADDITIONAL DOSE FOR THE PREVENTION OF COVID-19, Nov. 3, 2021

Department of Health, Townhall Meeting with Barangay Captains and Kagawad in Preparation for National Vaccination Day Part IV, March 7, 2022

Dr. Nina Gloriani, Updates on COVID19 Vaccines Effectiveness, March 7, 2022

Department of Health, COVID 19 FAQs

Department of Health, Media Release, March 8, 2022

 

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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