Trusting vaccines’ safety, efficacy

September 24, 2021

With the high number of active Covid-19 cases and increasing hospital admission, there is a greater need for more eligible individuals to be vaccinated.

It is, however, unfortunate, that there are still quite a number of people who refuse to be vaccinated, either because they do not believe in vaccines or they are waiting for their preferred vaccine brand.

Some of these vaccine brands that many people prefer remain elusive for developing nations like the Philippines. Either these vaccine brands come in trickles or those donated by other governments through the COVAX Facility.

Supplies don’t come easily as much as we want to as most have already been purchased by some of the richest nations or are already being used for third dose by some countries. And the Philippines is not alone in this predicament.

That is why in my campaign for the International Law Commission, I have underscored the need for an international treaty that will be recognized by all nations on vaccine equality, in which vaccines should be made accessible and available for all countries.

And while we, at the national government, respect individual preference for vaccines, we would like to underscore, as may health experts have also reiterated, that all vaccines currently in use and have been granted approval for emergency use by the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization, are all safe and effective.

In one of my recent press briefings, infectious disease specialist and one of our resident health experts in the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Dr. Edsel Salvana, again presented local data release by the FDA as of 29 August 2021, which shows that out of 13.87-M fully vaccinated individuals, the number of breakthrough cases is only 242 or 0.0017 percent breakthrough infections.

Dr. Salvana emphasized that this proves that the vaccines are indeed working as studies have shown that all approved vaccines with an Emergency Use Authorization are effective against severe disease and are 90 percent effective in decreasing the risk of deaths and hospitalizations.

Health experts have also pointed out that the real cause of breakthrough infections is not because vaccine efficacy or immunity is waning but because of the characteristic of the Delta variant. And while some preliminary studies have shown that clinical efficacy of vaccines is lower at 30 to 40 percent against the Delta variant, the fact remains that all vaccines are effective against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

Rev. Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, a molecular biologist who has forayed into Covid-19 disease modeling, explained in my recent press briefing that even if infections are going up, when the population reaches a certain point of vaccination, hospitalizations due to Covid-19 will not go up but will go down instead because the vaccines will protect the population from severe disease, dying, and being hospitalized.

It is good to note that the National Capital Region (NCR), which has really been at the center of Covid-19 infections in the country, is now nearing 70 percent of its target eligible population for vaccination. As of 22 September 2021, the NCR has already recorded 15,083,993 total vaccines administered, of which 6,760,863 individuals or 69.16 percent are fully vaccinated.

I hope that other regions will also achieve soon the target population for vaccination to achieve herd immunity for all Filipinos. This is very much possible as vaccine supply continues to come in bulk. Some 27.2 million vaccine doses are confirmed to be delivered to the country for September alone.