Take the vaccine now or give way to others

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 14, 2021 - 12:00am

The successive arrivals here in our country of more vaccines against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and in much greater volumes give us a sense of hope. We would really not be left far behind in the global fight to end this pandemic. A large bulk of the latest anti-COVID vaccines originated from the COVAX Facility of the World Health Organization (WHO).

To date, the Philippines has received a total of 7,571,000 of anti-COVID vaccines. These included the total of 4 million Coronavac doses from Sinovac of China purchased by the Department of Health (DOH) and 1 million doses donated by Beijing. On trial basis, a batch of 30,000 Sputnik-V vaccine doses bought by the Philippine government from Gamaleya of Russia have arrived.

Over the weekend, 2,030,400 doses more of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX Facility were flown in. The first batch of 526,000 AstraZeneca doses from COVAX has already been rolled out in our country last March. Also from COVAX, 193,000 doses of US-donated Pfizer vaccines were flown in last Monday and 2.2 million doses more arriving later this month.

Makati City Mayor Abigail Binay is getting worried though with emerging vaccine challenges to the local government units (LGUs) undertaking the anti-COVID inoculations all over the country. In our Kapihan sa Manila Bay zoom webinar last Wednesday, Mayor Binay happily announced, however, the previous widespread reluctance of people to get anti-COVID jabs is no longer the case. Mayor Binay gladly reported around 50,000 of her constituents in vaccination priority categories have already gotten China-made Coronavac of Sinovac jabs last March.

Mayor Binay was very amused to note the palpable “bandwagon effect” that set into motion the people to get anti-COVID jab by word-of-mouth and sharing experiences in social media. To Mayor Binay, this is a good sign and better kind of information coming from people who actually got their anti-COVID jabs.

She disclosed at least 500,000 vaccine-age people of the estimated 600,000 population of Makati City will get their anti-COVID jabs this year. Aside from COVAX Facility, Makati City earlier was among the LGU signatories to the Tripartite Agreement that bought their own AstraZeneca vaccines. The city government pre-ordered one million doses due for delivery in batches starting next month. After payment of 15% for the pre-order, Mayor Binay disclosed the city government still has much left out of P1 billion budget allotted for the procurement of other anti-COVID vaccines this year.

Following the WHO guidelines, only people who fall in these categories can avail of these COVAX-donated western-made vaccines: A-1 category, or health care workers; A-2 senior citizens; A-3 for those with comorbidity; and A-4 frontline economic workers.

This early, the Mayor is bracing for the turn of the general population to get their anti-COVID jabs by June. While it may not pose a problem because Makati City would have more than enough vaccine supply with their own procured AstraZeneca doses, Mayor Binay echoed the concern other LGUs would surely have troubles with brand-conscious Filipinos who prefer Western-made vaccine.

Mayor Binay underscored the need for LGUs to fend off possible accusations of “favoritism” or “palakasan” system in the dispensation of western-branded vaccines. This is especially the situation in Makati City where the commercial business district is surrounded by many poor communities living at the edges of the posh villages of its rich and famous residents.

Makati’s Vax-on-the-Go drive-through vaccination program was launched a few days back by Mayor Binay. Industrialist business leader Fernando Zobel de Ayala ceremonially drove through to get his first dose of Sinovac jab. She tweaked this program to allow also those riding in tricycles, not just car passengers to get inoculated with less complicated inoculation process using Sinovac vaccines that can be stored in regular freezer.

As the so-called “ina ng bayan” (mother of the city), Mayor Binay must be seen to play fair to all her Makati constituents, whether rich or poor families.

“They cannot tell us we play favorites because we gave someone this vaccine while they received another,” the bubbly Mayor Binay quipped and chuckled. She was our guest at the special Mothers’ Day edition of this week’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay online news forum.

Herself the mother of an 11-year old daughter, Mayor Binay is toying the idea of “lottery” system. This, to her, is more transparent and an acceptable way to determine what anti-COVID vaccine that each of her Makati City constituents would be injected with. Except, of course, she clarified, those who have allergy or contra-indications particular to a vaccine. For example, Sputnik-V is not a recommended vaccine for breastfeeding mothers under its emergency use authorization (EUA).

Another challenge, she cited, is the multi-dose-per-vial in the specific cases of AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines. Thus, she explained, vaccinators must first secure a specific number of vaccinees ready to be injected once a vial is opened to reduce, if not totally prevent wastage.

For now, the city government of Makati must first dispose 5,800 doses of Pfizer vaccine doses received from DOH last Tuesday. These doses are enough, she cited, to jab 2,900 of her Makati City constituents while the other half of doses is reserved for their second dose. Aside from the required provision of minus 70 degrees storage facility, the Mayor added, Pfizer vaccine must be dispensed within the prescribed period to keep its efficacy. Per DOH instructions, the LGUs given Pfizer vaccines have five days within which to use all the doses issued to them.

The 45-year-old Mayor Binay, giving her motherly advice, asked the general public to do more research about the vaccines. “And ask the right questions from the right people, and they will always tell you the best vaccine is what is available.”

This is less harsher than the DOH vaccination policy: take the vaccine now, or give way to others willing to get the jab whatever brand is available.

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