Issue of February 28, 2021
Mt. Province
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Experts battle lies about vaccination
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

The battle against the Covid-19 is far from over but experts on public health are facing yet another challenge – clarifying misinformation and lack of trust about the vaccination program.

As surveys showed that many are still apprehensive of getting their anti-Covid-19 vaccine shots, local health offices in partnership with experts on infectious diseases and public health have ramped up their information and education campaigns to prepare the public once vaccines arrive in the country.

Online fora, town hall meetings, distribution of leaflets in households, press conferences, and posting of infographics on social media are among the medium used to inform the public about the vaccination program.

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to three vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Sinopharm.

Vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech are expected to arrive this month with frontline health workers as the first recipients of the shots but the absence of an indemnification law delayed the delivery of the vaccines.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has announced that by March, 600,000 doses of vaccines made by the Sinopharm will arrive.

In the national vaccination plan, health workers are supposed to be the first recipients of the vaccine. The FDA however said it is not recommending Sinovac for health workers who have more exposure to the SARS-CoV2 virus.

Based on clinical trials in Brazil, Sinovac has an efficacy rate of about 55 percent. 

Despite the low efficacy rate compared to Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, doctors in the region are encouraging the public to have themselves vaccinated. 

Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center adult infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Bernard Demot, said the vaccine is still effective in protecting the general public who have lesser exposure to Covid-19 virus.

He said the FDA will not grant an EUA if the vaccine cannot protect an individual from an infection.

“Hindi nirekomenda ng mga eksperto ang Sinovac para sa mga health worker pero hindi ibig sabihin na hindi ito epektibo. Epektibo ito para sa general population (dahil) ‘yung risk nila ay mas mababa compared sa mga healthcare worker,” Demot said. 

He, along with other specialists on infectious diseases, is encouraging the public to have themselves vaccinated if they are included in the list of vaccinees.

“I encourage you to grab the chance. Hindi ito iro-roll out ng gobyerno kung hindi safe,” Demot said.

He said the general population may be vaccinated including those with co-morbidities except those who are pregnant, below 16 years old, and those with known allergies to the active ingredients of the vaccine.

Demot said this is why potential vaccinees undergo profiling.

Department of Health-Cordillera Director Ruby Constantino said in a separate press briefing that health workers do not have direct contact with Covid-19 patients will also be vaccinated using the vaccines developed by Sinopharm.

With the limited number of vaccines, she said the public cannot choose which brand will be vaccinated on them. Those who will give up their slots will not be priority once vaccines arrive.

BGHMC Public Unit head, Dr. Leamor Fangonilo, added getting vaccinated is not only for self-protection but also of people around them.

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