Editorial: Letting the chance slip

Illustration by Gilbert Manantan

The close to 3,000 medical frontliners of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City and other health institutions in the region deserve to be the first recipients of the vaccine against the highly infectious disease that has ravaged the country for the last 11 months.

Their daily exposure to people afflicted with Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), has made them vulnerable to infection.

You would have expected them to take advantage of being prioritized in the government’s vaccine rollout program, which in Cebu began on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Yet less than half of them have agreed to be inoculated with the free Covid-19 vaccine because, to quote Dr. Gerardo Aquino Jr., VSMMC medical chief, they have no confidence (dili kompyansa) in CoronaVac, which is manufactured by the Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech and donated by the Chinese government.

Despite thousands, if not millions, of people in Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil having already received doses of the CoronaVac shot, majority of VSMMC medical frontliners would rather wait for the vaccine from its Western counterparts like Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca.

A growing number of questions over the effectiveness of CoronaVac has not helped, especially after it was revealed during the late-stage trials in Brazil that it has an efficacy rate of just over 50.38 percent, which barely crosses the 50 percent efficacy threshold set by the World Health Organization and is far lower than the 78 percent previously announced by the Chinese government in December.

But what does this mean?

According to L.J. Tan, chief strategist of the nonprofit Immunization Action Coalition, an organization based in Minnesota in the US that distributes information about vaccines and the diseases they spread, it means that half of the people who are vaccinated will not get the disease.

It’s also possible that the vaccine will reduce the severity of disease in the other half who do get sick, said Bill Miller of the Ohio State University College of Public Health. “It may mean that people are less likely to be hospitalized, require ICU care or die,” he added.

At this point, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure for millions of Filipinos spread across the archipelago whose lives have been put on hold since this pandemic started a year ago.

And many of them do not have the chance our local medical frontliners have. Some of them may have to wait another two years before they can put this nightmare that is Covid-19 behind them and actually avail themselves of the government’s vaccination program.


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