Resbakuna: Three months into the Philippines’ immunization campaign
By April Evangelista and Phoebe de Leon
Two Filipino doctors discussed the advantages and possible adverse reactions of getting vaccinated, amid the Philippine government’s plan to inoculate millions of Filipinos by the end of the year.
The Philippines formally began its COVID-19 vaccination program last March, putting to use the 600,000 doses of the Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine donated by China last February 28. Later on, those jabs were supplemented by some 480,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine sent by the COVAX Facility.
While the Philippines is the last country in Southeast Asia to begin vaccinations, the first legal administration of the coronavirus vaccines put into motion the Philippine government’s plan to inoculate at least 50 million Filipinos by the end of 2021.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the vaccine priority list endorsed by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) and the Department of Health’s Technical Advisory Group last February.
The resolution identified 12 population groups with medical frontline workers, senior citizens, persons with co-morbidities, and frontline personnel in essential sectors at the top of the list.
Now, three months into the program and some five million administered doses later, The Frontliner Today sought out individuals who have been vaccinated under the Philippines’ immunization campaign to explore their experiences pre- and post-jab.
Q: What are your thoughts before getting vaccinated for COVID-19? Give us your first impressions about the vaccine and the thought of being vaccinated.
“I’m excited to get vaccinated because I know it’s one of the [solutions] to stop this pandemic,” pediatrician Dr. Analene Junio stated, adding that she is an advocate of vaccination.
Meanwhile, fellow pediatrician Dr. Catherine De Leon admitted that she experienced some anxiety about getting vaccinated. This anxiety was — and perhaps still is — felt by other healthcare workers in the country.
Frontliners from the Philippine General Hospital organized a protest on Feb. 26 after the government announced the arrival of the Sinovac vaccines from China for distribution and administration to healthcare workers. This came amid a string of speculations on the vaccine’s overall efficacy following clinical trials in Brazil that set Sinovac’s efficacy level to just a little over 50%. Experts, however, have reassured the public that Sinovac vaccines are safe to use.
Q: What do you think are the advantages or disadvantages (if there are) of getting vaccinated?
“[There are] no disadvantages perceived. If there are, the advantages far outweigh it,” Dr. De Leon noted, a sentiment that is shared by Dr. Junio.
Both doctors agreed that though manifesting adverse reactions to the shot is a possibility, they will be minimal ones and will not outweigh the advantages of being vaccinated. One of the most important advantages of getting vaccinated is acquiring protection from the coronavirus.
“It will prevent acquiring [a] severe form of the disease. It will promote herd immunity that is needed to stop this pandemic,” Dr. Junio explained.
Though a small percentage of fully vaccinated people may still get infected, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asserted that these “vaccine breakthrough cases” are uncommon but completely normal. If a vaccinated individual gets COVID-19, it will be more likely for them to experience less severe symptoms or even none at all.
Drs. De Leon and Junio said getting vaccinated against COVID-19 protects not only vaccinated individuals, but also those around them.
Q: So far, what are the symptoms and changes you feel after being vaccinated?
Dr. De Leon, who has received both doses, noted only mild soreness around her injection site while Dr. Junio displayed an additional headache and an increase in her blood pressure for a day following only her second dose. Both did not experience adverse reactions to the vaccine.
Given the limited time to track side effects of the coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials, those vaccinated have been advised to closely monitor changes in their bodies after their shots. The Makati Medical Center listed eight common side effects to the vaccines: pain and swelling around the injection site, fatigue, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain, rashes or itchiness, and a feeling of unwellness.
Q: What can you say to those who have doubts about the vaccine and to those who don’t want to get the vaccine?
“Please get vaccinated for your loved ones who are part of the vulnerable population. Let’s stop this pandemic and do our part by getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Junio.
Her warning comes as the death toll related to COVID-19 continues to rise and professionals call for more Filipinos to get vaccinated. Amid this, Junio noted that some individuals are still hesitant to get their COVID-19 shots.
“Getting the vaccine is a personal decision that can only be made by the individual,” Dr. De Leon acknowledged. “But before deciding, make sure your information about the vaccines are from reliable sources and not from hearsay or stories that have facts twisted.”
Alongside a lack of readily available COVID-19 shots, vaccine hesitancy is one of the factors that affect the country’s chances of achieving herd immunity.
Granted, the hesitancy that people feel is completely valid given the time that biopharmaceutical companies had to develop and manufacture vaccines and how researchers have yet to determine all possible risks that come with inoculation. However, doctors reminded that the public must take it upon themselves to be discerning when it comes to information available on vaccines and the coronavirus.
It has been over a year since the government declared a national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. With over 12 million doses delivered to the Philippines as of June 10, the Philippines is slowly making its way through its priority list and has recently begun inoculating citizens under the A4 category last June 7. DC
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