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To vaccinate or not a most difficult choice

04:05 AM February 16, 2021

We’ve been through 11 months of successfully avoiding Covid-19 and its mutations without vaccines. Our country’s Covid reproductive numbers are going down and only two deaths daily are being registered among Metro Manila’s 12 million population.

The much hyped warnings about infection spikes during the past holiday season and the feared social distancing violations during the Nazareno feast did not happen. To many of us, this is an indication that Metro Manila residents have accepted living dangerously with the virus and its strict health protocols.

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Our latest record of 550,860 cases (#31 in the world as of the latest count) is far better than other progressive nations with smaller populations such as Canada, Sweden, and Belgium. Our latest record of 27,858 active cases makes us number 41 worldwide, better than Malaysia and most European nations.

But with the expected arrival of the vaccines, many families are in heated discussions on whether to vaccinate or not. The recent Pulse Asia survey (December 2020) showed most Filipinos rejecting Covid-19 vaccines. Nationwide numbers had 47 percent of respondents saying no to vaccination, while only 32 percent said yes. In Metro Manila, it was closer with 41 percent against and 37 percent agreeing.

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The people’s fears also have scientific support, mostly derived from news and social media. As a senior citizen, I religiously follow news articles about side effects of the most popular vaccines. Apart from the normal vaccination reactions of swellings, redness and pain on the injection site, there are also fatigue, fever and headache and aching limbs in the first three days.

But there are also  stories of allergic shocks, but were dismissed as “isolated cases” by US FDA, European Medicines agency and WHO experts. They insist and reiterated that overall the vaccines are safe.

Pfizder-Biontech is grappling with the headlines that 33 people in Norway died a few days after the first dose, all of whom were more than 75 years old with severe underlying diseases. Moderna has rare severe allergic reactions, but a very small number of people experienced “facial nerve paralysis” but mostly temporary. AstraZeneca trials were initially halted after one person suffered inflammation of the spinal cord after vaccination, but an independent panel proved otherwise. Vaccine reactions were less frequent and milder in older people.

Russia’s Sputnik V registered 317 typical reactions in 32,013 vaccinated people in Argentina. Reuters also reported that 52 percent of 3,040 Russian doctors and other health professionals said they would not be vaccinated due to insufficient data. China’s Sinovac was also temporarily halted In Brazil last December due to a death of a participant but researchers proved this was not vaccine related.

So many claims and counter-claims. But the real situation is that, no Covid-19 vaccine has completely finished the required clinical trials as of today. This process is normally participated in by at least 60,000 people, the results of which should take years or even decades to ascertain its long term implications. All Covid-19 vaccines are still on Phase 3 and that its early distribution by countries to their population was only allowed through “emergency use authorizations” or EUA.

And since there was no completion, it is correct to declare that nobody can be sure about their possible long-term effects on humans.

This is the major fear of most Filipinos who are now on a wait-and-see attitude on these vaccines. The questions are simple. Will we risk our lives on vaccines that have not completed their clinical trials? Does “emergency use authorization” by WHO and government FDA’s worldwide ensure long term safety of these vaccines?

As far as I’m concerned, I am willing to wait for my right time for vaccination. I feel safer against Covid-19 by strictly following health protocols as against allowing anti-bodies into my healthy system. But of course, this is a personal decision.

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