Final battle vs COVID-19 begins
After a long wait, we witnessed the rollout of donated 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines administered to frontline health workers and some Cabinet members. There was no choice, because the other vaccines, particularly the western Pfizer-Biontech and Astrazeneca, remain unavailable. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez claims Pfizer is again expected to arrive second quarter this year while Aztrazeneca is facing “global acute shortages” and logistical challenges.
Next month, another 1 million Sinovac vaccines will arrive from a government purchase order worth P700 million, at which point President Duterte promises immediate removal of existing quarantines and open up the economy.
But people should internalize the basic issues here. All of these vaccines have no assurance of long-term health benefits as they are still at the beginning of the required “five years vaccine trials”. This means, no one really knows their real side-effects until the five-year trials are concluded.
With 114,966,562 Covid-19 cases worldwide and 2,549,039 deaths as of today (March 2, 2021), the World Health Organization (WHO) had to authorize governments to issue “emergency use authorizations” or EUAs on these vaccines still on experimental stage.
Subsequent streams of medical claims by these vaccine makers triggered the emergence of medical propaganda literature for competing Western and Chinese/Russian counterparts. Quite understandable because vaccines are both big financial contracts and geopolitical assets. But as a balancer, each nation has its own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on whether to allow immediate use of these ‘trialling vaccines”.
“Indemnification agreements” is another issue, whereby vaccine manufacturers want first to be free of liabilities in cases of deaths or accidents. This was solved after President Duterte signed “Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021” allocating P500 million or $10.26 million as indemnity fund in case of serious adverse effects of the vaccines “emergency use”.
Earlier, a problem emerged with Pfizer-Biontech which was supposed to donate 117,000 doses from the COVAX facility. The first demand was a standard indemnification agreement and in addition, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez claims Pfizer reacted to the recent issuance of government arrest orders to Sanofi officials, manufacturer of Dengvaxia. Initially, the Pfizer 117,000 donation dose was touted to launch government’s vaccination program in February, but even after indemnity issues were cleared, they failed to deliver and was beaten by Sinovac’s 600,000 dose donation.
Only three vaccine manufacturers were given EUA’s by our FDA as of today, namely Pfizer-Biontech, Astrazeneca and Sinovac. The pending applications are Moderna, Russia’s Sputnik V, India’s Covaxin, and the controversial Chinese Sinopharm, which was inoculated to PSG personnel, Cabinet members, politicians and journalist Mon Tulfo last October.
Available now in the country, although disparaged by many sectors is Sinovac, which our own FDA says is 65.3 percent effective in Indonesia and 95.2 percent in Turkey in its first dose to healthy individuals within 18-59 years old. It is only on health workers frequently exposed to the virus that the efficacy rate drops to 50.4 percent.
These developments shifted peoples’ talk to preferences, on whether to inoculate now or wait for the other vaccines to arrive. But the best thing to do really is to listen to our own FDA and their several panels of experts who diligently process these vaccines’ clinical trials. Their reputations are at stake, but we must trust them.
If you are a senior citizen, then wait for either Pfizer, Astrazeneca , Sputnik V or Sinopharma, whichever is available. If younger, then get Sinovac. If you’re a medical frontliner, then wait for Pfizer or Astrazeneca. This situation is better than a year ago.
We are now seeing a final phase of our nation’s fight against this dreaded disease which has claimed the lives of 12,332 in the country and 1,018 overseas Filipino workers, toppled our economy and hurt all Filipino families in unimaginable ways.
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