COVID-19 UPDATE: Sinovac Vaccine Arrives In The Philippines On 28 February 2021
After multiple delays, a handful of controversy, and some confusion on the side, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines have finally arrived on Philippine shores. The shipment came as a donation from China, carrying 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines. According to news, the Chinese military aircraft landed on Villamor Air Base in Pasay at 4:10pm on 28 February 2021, where members of the media, as well as high-ranking government officials—including the president himself—were waiting.
At this point in the pandemic, vaccines have become a powerful buzzword. It's a symbol of hope in a world ravaged by uncertainty. And fortunately enough, the country has finally begun its vaccine rollout on 1 March 2020. Yet, questions remain. Here's what you need to know:
What is Sinovac?
Sinovac is the name of the Beijing-based corporation developing a vaccine called CoronaVac. Unlike some Western counterparts, CoronaVac doesn't use mRNA technology. Instead, it uses "killed viral particles" to expose the body's immunity and trigger a response. In some ways, this method is more "traditional" compared to new technologies such as mRNA.
One of CoronaVac's biggest advantages is the fact that it can be stored in a standard refrigerator. While Moderna vaccines need to be stored at -20C, and Pfizer at -70C, CoronaVac only requires temperatures between 2-8C. This is particularly advantageous for the Philippines, a tropical country that may not necessarily have the necessary equipment needed to store other vaccines.
Of course, convenience is only one factor to consider—efficiency is something that must be taken into account as well. There have been varying reports on CoronaVac. In Brazil, researchers originally reported a 78 per cent efficacy rate but revised their results to 50.4 per cent in January. However, late-stage trials from research in Turkey and Indonesia have shown between 65.3 per cent to 91.25 per cent efficiency. And while side effects are common to all vaccines, a Taiwanese newspaper had also earlier published a now-viral article that claimed that CoronaVac had 73 various side effects. CoronaVac is also among the more expensive vaccine options, although it's important to note that the current shipment is a donation.
Who's going to get the vaccine?
Vaccine rollouts have already started in the Philippines. The first to be inoculated are frontline healthcare workers in government hospitals, military personnel, and a few government officials. The Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), Lung Centre of the Philippines (LCP), Dr Jose N Rodriguez Memorial Medical Centre and Sanitarium (Tala), Philippine National Police (PNP) Multi-Purpose Centre, Victoriano Luna Medical Centre were among the first institutions to receive doses.
The first person to have gotten legally vaccinated in the Philippines is PGH Director and neurosurgeon, Dr Gerardo Legaspi, or Dr Gap.
Can you refuse the Sinovac vaccine?
People who have doubts about the Sinovac vaccine can refuse a dose.
On 11 January 2021, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that health workers and indigent elderly who refuse the first vaccine offered by the government will be put at the back of the line. Now, he says, health workers who refuse the Sinovac vaccine will remain on the priority list.
When are the other vaccines coming?
There have been many doubts concerning the Sinovac vaccine, so you may be wondering when other brands will come into the country. Originally, a batch of over 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca (from COVAX) was supposed to arrive in the Philippines on 1 March 2020. However, due to a "global supply problem", it's been delayed for about a week, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. COVAX donations from Pfizer are set to arrive in March, while others such as those from Moderna may come around the third quarter of the year.