Incompetence in the first degree
As I write this column, I am preparing to go to our village vaccine center and be vaccinated against COVID-19. I am loathe to do so, because the administered vaccine is Sinovac, which is not even part of my list of preferred vaccines.
But I have to do it, because a) I am old, and b) I have comorbidities. My daughter Toby tells me that the mortality rate of over-70 COVID-19 patients at the Philippine General Hospital is 70 percent, and that the new variants are much more aggressive than the ones that we had when the pandemic started.
I wanted to wait for the Moderna vaccine. It is my No. 1 choice, based on the reported evidence, and the fact that Dr. Anthony Fauci and two of my sisters in the United States were vaccinated with it. In yesterday’s Inquirer, we were told on the one hand that Moderna was coming by June 15, and on the other, that it wasn’t sure because of the problems with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (which may lead to Moderna having to supply the United States first).
All the other vaccines have reported problems, but not Sinovac (and Moderna). Isn’t that enough to give the Chinese vaccine a go-signal? No, because its makers have been less than transparent, and absent the required information, how can the scientific community assess properly? In this case, no news cannot be considered good news.
But then, that lack of transparency (one can consider it a reluctance to give information that may hurt China’s image) aptly describes how China has handled COVID-19 from the very beginning, and up to now with its vaccines. It withheld information about the very existence of the virus, and it has blocked the World Health Organization’s investigations as to the beginnings of COVID-19. It has even spread disinformation that COVID-19 came from meat imported by China from other countries. Plus, it has harassed and even jailed doctors and other citizens who were reporting things that it did not want revealed.
So if one is leery about this made-in-China pharmaceutical intervention, one certainly has reason, don’t you agree, Reader?
But Toby was unrelenting in her cost-benefit analysis of Sinovac versus Moderna. First and most important, Sinovac is available now, Moderna’s arrival is not really certain—the earliest is June 15, and the most likely (from informed sources) will be in the third and fourth quarters. So, if I take the first dose of Sinovac now, I will be fully protected (from the most severe form of the virus) by on or about June 1. That gives it a lead safety time of anywhere from one month to four months over Moderna (assuming it comes anytime between June 15 and Sept. 15).
But what about its efficacy? Apparently, there is some data from the Phase 3 trials of Sinovac in Brazil that confirm its 100 percent efficacy over the most severe form. It is not so efficacious with moderate and light forms of the virus.
In sum: I get to be safe from the severe form of the virus one month to three months sooner with Sinovac than with Moderna. Benefit. I may contract the virus anyway with Sinovac in its light and moderate forms. Cost.
The other considerations: that the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) has not yet given its imprimatur to the Sinovac vaccine; and that a recent study showing that this vaccine was not effective against the Brazil variant kind of faded away.
I was left with a feeling of deep resentment against the authorities for having left me with no choice but the Chinese vaccine because no other vaccine was available. Why did they dither on ordering the vaccines in the first place? That’s incompetence in the first degree.
But now for the better news: Between the beginning and end of this column, my husband and I (accompanied by Toby) went to the Colegio San Agustin to get our vaccinations. And I must tell you, Reader, that our experience was the exact opposite of what UP Prof. Elizabeth Angsioco went through (see the Segundo Romero column yesterday).
We were through in less than an hour, from registration to post-vaccination (this last was about 30 minutes). Barangay officials and volunteers were there, together with city medical personnel. And best of all, the person who vaccinated me, Ms MJ Vico, was so gentle, I didn’t feel the prick at all. Plus, I just received a text telling me what to expect, etc.
What a joy to be able to report on competent and caring government officials and personnel!
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