MANILA - A vaccine expert on Saturday stressed the need for the fast rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 amid another surge in new cases and the threat of more contagious coronavirus variants.
"Ang pinakamahalaga nga, sinasabi ng mga eksperto ay 'yung expedient, kumbaga bilisan natin ang pagbabakuna at marami. Mabilis at marami agad sapagkat ito ang makapagbibigay sa atin in the long run ng proteksiyon,” Dr. Maria Consorcia Quizon, a member of the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) for COVID-19 vaccines, said in an interview on TeleRadyo.
(The most important thing that experts say is to be expedient, to speed up vaccinating many people because this will provide us protection in the long run.)
The Philippines on Monday began its vaccination program, inoculating mostly health workers using jabs donated by China’s Sinovac Biotech. A shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines, meanwhile, arrived in the Philippines on Thursday through the vaccine-sharing platform COVAX Facility.
“That is what we have at the moment. Kahit lumitaw na sa Pilipinas ay may variant, ang mas nakakarami pa rin ay 'yung naunang COVID so makakaprotekta pa rin sa atin," she said.
(This is what we have at the moment. Even if there is a presence of a variant in the Philippines, majority is the first COVID so the vaccines can still protect us.)
Quizon said vaccine brands being rolled out around the world help protect patients and their communities from COVID-19, regardless of its efficacy rate.
None of the vaccines can say that its efficacy is 100 percent, she added, and brands whose rating is not that high can still be protective.
The OCTA Research Group earlier said that the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine decreases from 70 percent to 10 percent in cases of the South African COVID-19 variant.
There is no vaccine that currently addresses this particular variant and the other mutations. Quizon said the vaccines that have been developed by various firms around the world were intended to address the first strain.
She emphasized that COVID-19 vaccines provide protection against the disease developing into a more severe form, helping prevent death.
“Wala pa talagang makakapagsabi na one is better than the other,” she said.
“Sa vaccines na meron tayo good for naunang coronavirus kaya di natin masabi kung talagang totally effective itong version na ito for that variant. Pero inaasahan natin na sooner or later magdadagdag sila o magte-tweak sila ng vaccine na 'yun para matugunan din o malabanan din itong variant na ito.”
(No one can say that one is better than the other. The vaccines that we have is good for the first coronavirus that's why we cannot say if it's going to be effective also for that variant. But we expect, sooner or later, that they would add or tweak the vaccines to address or fight this variant.)
On Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines has recorded a total of 52 cases of the more transmissible South African variant and 42 additional virus cases with potential clinical significance. He also reported 31 newly-reported cases of the UK variant.
As of Friday, the Philippines has confirmed 587,704 COVID-19 cases, with 12.423 deaths and 535,207 recoveries. Over 3,000 cases were recorded, the highest single-day tally since October.