ALTHOUGH developers have released the efficacy rates of their candidate vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said nobody can determine yet if any of these vaccines are effective.
A vaccine’s efficacy rate, which determines the degree to which it prevents a disease during clinical trials, differs from its effectiveness, which is measured when the vaccine is administered to the public.
In a virtual press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire disagreed with the conclusion of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that Sinovac vaccines had a high efficacy rate among Indonesians.
"Just for the information of everybody, no one can really know yet if the vaccine will be effective or not. At least not right now," Vergeire said in a virtual press briefing Friday, January 15, 2021.
"The outcome in the population, that will be measured and it will take long. We cannot see yet if it is effective or not," she added.
Vergeire said vaccine experts have pointed out that it will take several months up to a year before a vaccine’s effectiveness can be measured.
"Once the vaccination is completed, we need to wait for about six months to a year before we are able to reduce deaths or reduce the number of cases," she said.
She was reacting to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement that the vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech of China posted a high efficacy rate in Indonesia.
Roque sought to defend government’s purchase of 25 million doses of Sinovac vaccines on Friday.
Vergeire, however, agreed with Roque that Filipinos cannot afford to be picky because the supply of Covid-19 vaccines is still limited while global demand is high.
"We need to understand that the government is having this vaccination program to protect the whole Filipino population. That is the objective. At this point, we won't be giving an option which type of vaccine can be availed by an individual," said Vergeire.
"These vaccines forthcoming are the ones that (are) committed to the country. And we all know how much is the global competition for these vaccines," she added.
Nevertheless, the health official assured the public that each vaccine that will be administered in the country shall undergo stringent evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"We want to give the assurance that all vaccines will go through our process for regulation and all of these vaccines that will get the authorization would be safe and effective for everybody," said Vergeire.
She stressed that no one will be forced to get immunized.
Meanwhile, the DOH said there is high likelihood that a "vaccine passport" policy will be implemented in the country in the future.
Vergeire said there is logic behind requiring travelers to be immunized against Covid-19 before they are allowed to enter or exit the country.
"This vaccine passport, I believe, will be implemented. And when it is widely implemented already, it will be part of protocols to control the borders of each country around the globe," said Vergeire.
"A vaccine passport or this card will certify that you are vaccinated," she furthered.
She said the Philippines is already looking forward to such a policy by having a registry for those who will get inoculated.
"We will have a QR code for each individual that will be immunized," she said.
"This would be something of a unique identifier for each person that will receive (the) vaccine,” added Vergeire. (HDT / SunStar Philippines)