Let’s talk about vaccines

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - March 6, 2021 - 12:00am

“The first vaccine that comes along I’ll take it,” said Dr. Bebot Sarcauga-Chua who was one of the guests during a Zoom forum organized last week by Cebu-based lawyer-proponents of the Lawyer Protection Program.

All vaccines that are given the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) are safe vaccines, the doctors in the forum declared. That being said, I also take the same stance when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines – that I’ll take the first available FDA-approved vaccine that is offered.

A doctor friend of mine, infectious disease specialist Dr. Bryan Albert Lim, announced on his social media page yesterday that he already got the first dose of Sinovac, the vaccine against COVID-19 which recently arrived from China as a donation to our medical frontliners.

Regardless of how you feel about China – like you still want its government to be made accountable for its mishandling of the virus outbreak that caught governments around the world flatfooted – there is no denying the fact that Chinese scientists who developed COVID-19 vaccines are as competent as their counterparts in the West. Their work has been reviewed and evaluated by their peers around the world.

Next to Sinovac, the first shipment of 487,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccine made by the British-Swede pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca finally arrived in the Philippines the other day. The shipment came from the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility in Belgium.

Based on the press release of the Department of Health last month, the Philippines is set to receive a total of 44 million doses allocated by the COVAX facility this year, with up to 9.2 million doses arriving within the first and second quarter.

Fighting COVID-19 is a race against time, considering how fast the virus mutates in the bodies of those infected especially the immuno-compromised. We’ll never know when and how the next variants could mutate and what the mutation’s impact will be on the efficacy and effectiveness of the vaccines. Silent spreaders are still among us, particularly those who do not follow the health protocols.

We can quibble and argue all day about vaccine efficacy and effectiveness, but I’d rather trust the experts when it comes to vaccines. And the word from doctors is that they will take the first vaccine that comes along. It does not mean that when you line up for a vaccine jab you will automatically get it. Medical personnel will still ask you questions to evaluate if your medical profile would be fit for a particular vaccine available.

I mean, if you’ve always trusted your doctor with your health, why would you allow conspiracy theories and baseless information to plant doubts in your mind about the vaccines?

Let us spread the word about the importance of vaccination. The vaccine rollout will not happen overnight, but every day should be a better day when it comes to the war against COVID-19. A deep plunge in the rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths has already been observed in countries that have rolled out their vaccination programs since January. Some vaccines that may not be as effective in preventing asymptomatic infections are still actually very effective in preventing severe COVID.

Hopefully more choices will be made available soon aside from Sinovac and AstraZeneca. We hope to have deliveries soon from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Gamaleya, Novavax, and the Serum Institute of India.

In the meantime, according to the WHO, we must maintain and strengthen public health measures that work; masking, physical distancing, handwashing, respiratory and cough hygiene, avoiding crowds, and ensuring good ventilation. And we must still observe those measures even after being vaccinated, until the proper authorities will say we could already resume gathering without masks. It will take a while before we could fully regain the way of life we lost to the virus.

With a nearly 50% vaccine hesitancy rate among Filipinos, we need to talk more about the importance of vaccines and shed light on myths and misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines.

In a related development, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter is organizing an online forum to be held on Saturday, March 13, to help spread awareness and educate more people about the COVID-19 vaccines. Thank you to IBP Cebu City Chapter president Regal Oliva and incoming chapter president Michelle Mendez-Palmares and their team for organizing this upcoming forum aptly entitled “Immunity from the COVID-19 Impunity: How Best to Get Your Life Back”.

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