If you’re wondering what the internet is mad about today, here’s a quick recap.
Radio station DZRH asked—why, we do not know—a doctor with a curious anti-vax stance to guest on the show Dos por Dos on August 11, setting off the latest firestorm online. On the show, Dr Romeo Quijano, MD, aired the controversial minority view that Covid-19 vaccines were more harmful than the virus itself.
“Sa aking pagsusuri, sa aking pag-aaral—matagal ko nang pinag-aaralan itong mga bakuna na ito—na mas delikado ‘yung mga bakuna na pinapalaganap ngayon kaysa virus mismo,” Dr Quijano said during the segment, adding that he had deep objections to the expected expansion of mandatory vaccines to children. The doctor, who is a retired professor from the University of the Philippines’ Pharmacology and Toxicology Department, also said that he was certain that “the next generation will not be able to forgive us.”
Now that probably would have been quickly forgotten, except that DZRH uploaded a video showing that exact portion of the interview on Facebook. The video has racked up over 66,000 views as of this writing, along with more than 2,500 shares. (If you want to add more, you can watch the video here).
As the video went viral among certain segments of the population, it set off alarm bells within the academic and medical communities, as authorities and experts condemned the interview, calling it “false information.”
The Department of Health issued a strongly worded statement yesterday, saying that the doctor’s interview was “especially irresponsible as the country continues to face the threat of the more infectious Delta variant”, criticizing both Quijano and the media outlet for giving him a platform.
Even Malacañang got into it, as presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said during a press briefing,”Huwag po kayo makinig sa nagsasabing hindi epektibo at hindi ligtas ang mga bakuna. ‘Yan po ay mga pekeng eksperto.” (“Do not believe those who say vaccines are not effective and safe. Those are fake experts”)
And, perhaps as a response to the uproar from the UP community, UP Manila College of Medicine and the Philippine General Hospital issued a joint statement reiterating their “commitment to the promotion of evidence-based practice of medicine especially in this COVID-19 pandemic” and distancing the institutions from “individuals, physicians they may be, former or retired faculty”.
Likewise, UP Manila’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology also posted a statement via the official UP Manila Facebook page, also affirming their support for “evidence-based approaches to addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, including vaccination,” while also “encourag[ing] all Filipinos to get vaccinated and to consult physicians with whom they can have balanced discussions of the various interventions for Covid-19 treatment and prevention.”
With the number of virtual pitchforks growing by the hour as more medical doctors and other scientists join the fray, the beleaguered doctor himself has issued a statement on Facebook.
In his statement—headlined “On the safety of Covid-19 vaccines: Dr. Romeo Quijano’s rejoinder to the DOH and UP Manila statements” (and including the URL for his website)—Quijano denies that he was spreading false information as he was “clearly expressing my personal opinion justifying my decision why I did not want to be vaccinated”.
But if that sounds like he was backing off, the rest of Quijano’s statement makes it evident that he was not. “Using University governance powers to prohibit a retired professor from speaking out using his/her lawful designation…is a violation of academic freedom and human rights,” he writes, defending his right to be identified as a professor from UP.
Besides that, Quijano goes on to say, “I deplore the apparent subservience of UP Manila authorities and many of its faculty members to corporate science”, before offering his view that “There are no independent studies that could validate the claims of the vaccine manufacturers.”
Quijano also offered a list of possible references to support his statements.
Is that the end of it? Of course not. Social media is still on fire “discussing” Quijano’s interview—though by “discussing,” we really mean shouting into the Twitter abyss, either to condemn the doctor or hail him as a champion against Big Pharma.
It’s reckless and morally irresponsible for Dr. Romeo Quijano and this group of doctors to make sweeping and baseless statements against COVID vaccines.
— Tony Leachon MD (@DrTonyLeachon) August 13, 2021
We don’t need a Persida Acosta during this pandemic.
Sit down, y’all peddlers of unverified [and outrageous] medical opinions. Yes, sit down, Dr. Romeo Quijano! https://t.co/FOMjUYIQNp
— Citizen Ken ケン (@KenCallawood) August 12, 2021
Oh, look… Dr. Romeo Quijano (my professor at UP College of Medicine and regular affable, funny guy) gets an AWARD from the WHO. Yup, he’s the guy that says BAKSHINS KHILL. Nice credentials, eh…? Duque nor Vergeire or ANYONE in the IATF would be GNATS compared to Doc Romy pic.twitter.com/plcqJRrarn
— Che Lejano, M.D. (@lejanomd) August 12, 2021
But the last word, perhaps, is this photo collage from the current members of Dr Quijano’s former department, an eloquent statement to answer his assertion that vaccines are dangerous that does not use so many words:
Ang mga kaguruan ng UP College of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology ay naniniwala na ang pagpapabakuna ay ligtas at mabisang paraan upang malabanan ang COVUD-19. Tapos na po kaming lahat sa aming pangalawang turok. #UPCM #UPManila #VaccinesWork #DZRH pic.twitter.com/htJyCTU8xB
— Cecilia Jimeno (@ceciledoc) August 13, 2021