A Sinovac vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus is seen at a psychiatric hospital in Banda Aceh on February 6, 2021. (AFP/Chaideer Mahyuddin)
MANILA, Philippines — Cabinet secretaries, including vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Deputy Chief Implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 Vince Dizon, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque, are set to be inoculated with Sinovac vaccines on Monday, a senator close to the president said Sunday.
According to a report by DZBB Super Radyo, the secretaries were persuaded to get vaccinated to encourage the public to get vaccinated.
To recall, 600,000 doses of the vaccine developed by China-based pharmaceutical company Sinovac are set to arrive on Sunday along with 500,000 separate doses from British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca.
“For Sinovac, some people have said that they do not want to be injected because of the different percentage of efficacy but we have seen many who have been vaccinated by Sinovac including some foreign leaders…President Duterte and I are willing to get vaccinated in public so that the public can trust the vaccine,” Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said in Filipino.
“Vaccination is our only way out of this [but] it’s important that health workers have a choice on whether they want to be vaccinated with Sinovac or not. Nobody will be required to take the vaccine. This will be voluntary…While vaccinating, we should all still follow health protocols,” he also said.
Go is chair of the Senate committee on health and sits in at Cabinet and Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease meetings.
Other public officials, including Police Gen. Debold Sinas, the chief of the Philippine National Police, have also expressed willingness to be inoculated in public.
Conflict over Sinovac among health workers
Though they have already secured emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, existing data show that the Sinovac jabs donated to the country by the Chinese government have not yet undergone Phase 3 clinical trials as of this post.
Trials in Brazil involving health workers who have had interaction with COVID-19 patients, the jabs yielded only an overall 50.4% efficacy. Separate trials showed a 65.3% efficacy rate in Indonesia and 91.25% in Turkey.
Doctors and other healthcare personnel from the Philippine General Hospital have publicly called for further assessment of the Sinovac vaccine before it is given to healthcare workers.
On the other hand, a briefer by the Department of Health says that the Sinovac jabs are still effective as “clinical trial data show that the vaccine is 50% effective in preventing mild symptoms, 78% effective against moderate symptoms, and 100% effective against severe symptoms.”
Dr. Edsel Salvaña, a doctor with the Inter-Agency Task Force Technical Advisory Group, argued in a Facebook post Saturday evening the National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups’ position that “based on my comparison of data, the Astra and Sinovac efficacy is actually fairly equivalent.”
This is because, he said, no data yet exists on the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccines in treating mild and moderate symptoms for healthcare workers. It has so far recorded 62% efficacy on mild symptoms for the general population, and also 100% efficacy for severe cases.
But no less than FDA chief Eric Domingo, in announcing the grant of the EUA, said that Sinovac “is not the most ideal vaccine” for medical personnel because they are constantly exposed to the risk of virus transmission
Coronavirus cases rising again
The health department’s latest case bulletin reported 2,921 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, the highest number so far this year. Exactly 574,247 cases have been reported in the country since the pathogen first emerged in December 2019.
It has been 348 days since the first enhanced community quarantine status was raised in some parts of Luzon. The Philippines is still under the world’s longest quarantine.
— Franco Luna with reports from Christian Deiparine
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