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That mad scramble for Pfizer vaccine

By: Ma. Ceres P. Doyo - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | May 27,2021 - 08:00 AM

What did people’s mad scramble last week for the US-manufactured Pfizer vaccine tell us?

But first, thank God it did not turn out to be a killer stampede reminiscent of TV’s live show “Wowowee” in 2006 that Pied Pipered and killed more than 70 persons and injured hundreds who were in a mad rush for raffle wins and freebies.

People’s rush for Pfizer vaccination in several Metro Manila sites last week was short of scary if not deadly. The big number of people—preregistered and not—that turned up was not anticipated. People had amassed in huge numbers even before the sites were opened, and there was no crowd control. These were, for the coronavirus, superspreader events as health protocols were thrown to the wind.

People knew the much-awaited Pfizer vaccine (a measly 193,000 single doses) had arrived in early May, but there was no official word as to where these vaccines were to be administered. The mRNA-type vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna need to be stored in an extremely low freezing temperature. Where then were the Pfizer vaccines likely to be?

Well, many people easily got wind of the Pfizer vaccines’ whereabouts and made a dash for their preferred brand although two other vaccine brands—China’s Sinovac and UK’s AstraZeneca—were already being administered for a couple of months, with the latter (meant for seniors and health frontliners) in short supply at one time.

What did this tell us?

Despite the Duterte administration’s unabashed gratefulness and obeisance to China for donated vaccines (but much more of these had been paid for) even while China’s maritime power was shamelessly intruding into Philippine territory, many Filipinos still thought they knew what was good or not good for them, if not for their woebegone motherland.

Despite admonitions from health authorities that “the best vaccine is the one that is available,” there were those who did not quite believe that (which says something about the Sinovac fandom’s credibility) and that waiting for something that they thought was good for them was the better option.

That first and still only batch—as of today—of the US-made Pfizer took long to arrive via the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility, while the Moderna that had been paid for by the private sector and the government via a tripartite agreement has yet to arrive. To recall, a previous Pfizer batch meant for Filipinos had sadly ended up elsewhere. So China’s Sinovac made the first landfall with drum rolls and trumpet blasts from the Duterte government.

The US needs to have 70 percent of its population vaccinated and achieve so-called herd immunity before their vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, could be sent out in huge amounts. Fil-Ams have been lobbying on behalf of their homeland across the ocean. The Visiting Forces Agreement should also mean Vaccines for Allies. Wishful thinking.

Meanwhile, I learned that the US’ Moderna vaccine already paid for by private companies (7 million doses) will make it through only in the last quarter of 2021, the reason why I ended up having AstraZeneca instead, and I was glad I did. (I wrote about it last week: “My vax day.”)

And so with that rush for Pfizer conveying messages for all and sundry, President Duterte raised his iron fist to say there should be no choosing whatsoever, but then health officials softened their “brand agnostic” policy. Vaccinees can exercise informed consent but only when they are about to get their jabs. They have the right to refuse a brand and register again for another try another time.

But why not name the brand at the site entrance so that vaccinees who prefer other brands can leave right away and not go through the “brand agnostic” process?

Another type of “agnosticism”: After all that hemming and hawing, Duterte displayed himself being jabbed reportedly with a Sinopharm vaccine from China (from the smuggled batch for his guards?) that has no EUA approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

People should get familiar with the anti-COVID-19 vaccines, the manufacturers, countries of origin, and most important of all, the types of vaccines (the technology used) and their safety and efficacy.

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TAGS: Moderna, Pfizer, Sinopharm

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