MANILA - A public health expert on Saturday underscored the need to restore first vaccine confidence among Filipinos as the country anticipates the arrival of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, said there are concerns that the country may not be ready yet for COVID-19 vaccination as the public is hesitant and there are many anti-vaxxers on social media.
“Mag-restore muna tayo ng confidence sa bakuna kasi kung ang bakuna dadalhin dito sa Pilipinas at gagamitin at ang makikita nila mga naninira at magdedemanda sa bakuna, hindi ba kung ikaw 'yung kumpanya ba’t mo dadalhin dito?” she said.
(Let’s restore confidence in vaccines first because if you bring it here and use it but see a lot of resistance and they may even file cases against it, would you still bring it here if you were the company?)
She said Filipinos' distrust of vaccines grew after the Dengvaxia controversy that began in late 2017. This has also resulted in the decline in immunization coverage in the country.
A lower immunization rate was observed in the country following questions on the safety of the anti-dengue drug, which was said to cause severe symptoms if administered on those who have never had dengue.
Vaccines, she stressed, are effective in combating diseases and has saved millions of lives.
However, there is no vaccine that is 100 percent side-effects free.
“Hindi lang COVID-19 vaccine, lahat ng bakuna meron 'yan parang may lagnat, sakit ng kalamnan, may joint pains, may headache, part 'yun ng side effects anumang bakuna,” she said.
(Fever, body pain, joint pains, headache are among the side effects of all vaccines, not only COVID-19 vaccine.)
She added that there is no assurance that a COVID-19 vaccine jab would provide lifetime protection.
“Ang standard ng isang bakuna para masabing maganda na ang safety at efficacy ay karaniwang at least 6 months observation ng Phase 3. Mayroon din nagkakasakit na bakunado kasi wala namang 100 percent na masasabi mo perfect 'yung bakuna,” she said.
(The standard to determine if its safe and effective is usually 6 months observation of Phase 3. But there are also immunized people who still get sick because vaccines are not 100 percent perfect.)
Two health workers in the United Kingdom, where the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was recently rolled out, were said to have had allergic reactions.
Bravo said people react differently to vaccines. Some may develop mild allergies to the vaccine while others could experience severe reactions like what they call anaphylactic shock.
She added that vaccinators should be trained to treat it as this could lead to death.
Vaccinators are trained to determine patients who may possibly develop symptoms of allergies, she said.
Vaccinators must always have with them an emergency kit to treat anaphylactic shock as this could happen to anyone.