THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - August 17, 2020 - 12:00am

All the jokes, memes, and other fun stuff have hit social media about the Russian COVID-19 vaccine. From physical mutations to recipients suddenly speaking Russian, and of course the political humor. But what all these jokes essentially point out is the caveat that everyone should take regarding a vaccine that seems to have been developed too fast, with data from the manufacturer's initial phases of the clinical trials yet to be made public.

Russia is very confident of the vaccine that it has registered it and claims to have passed all tests and safe to use. No less than Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his daughter as one of the recipients. Funny how he never mentioned receiving the vaccine himself. But experts in the field of virology are not convinced or comfortable with the new vaccine. First and foremost is the lack of data provided by the manufacturer to the public for scrutiny. Second, the long-term adverse effects are not known given the short duration and limited subjects supposedly of Phase 1 and 2 of clinical performed. The Philippines, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are included in the planned Phase 3 of clinical trials. This means that citizens of these countries will receive the vaccine and essentially be guinea pigs for long-term study.

Some virology experts from Russia have expressed caution regarding a vaccine the manufacturing company is already confident of. They believe the vaccine was developed too fast, with a lack of data provided and with questionable long-term effects on recipients. If you will recall Dengvaxia, it took two decades to develop before it was made available for use. Then Sanofi Pasteur issued a late warning against the use of the vaccine on those who have never been infected with dengue. A warning too late for the more than 800,000 recipients of a national vaccination program. In other words, the effects of a vaccine may take time to manifest. This is the purpose of clinical trials. To find out everything about the effects of a vaccine before declaring it safe. Definitely, it cannot be rushed.

If the country is included in Phase 3 of the clinical trials where thousands will be inoculated, only those who are willing to volunteer should be included. We know President Duterte has volunteered to be the first recipient, believing in the vaccine developed by a country whose leader he idolizes. But the Palace immediately issued a statement that Duterte may not be eligible because of his age. Nonetheless, the country has now been offered as a testing ground for the Russian vaccine. If one is comfortable with that then by all means volunteer. We are all hoping for a viable vaccine that will completely eradicate COVID-19 from the world in order for us to return to a normal life. But the vaccine, regardless of whoever developed it, must undergo scrutiny before being offered worldwide.

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