First, the good news: China delivering on its vaccine promises made in 2020, first that when ready China’s vaccines would be a “global public good” made available without profit to the poor nations of the world. This was a promise made by President Xi Jinping when he addressed the WHO General Assembly in May 2020.
Less than a year later we are witness to the fulfillment President Xi Jinping’s promise, and the vaccine we are initially receiving this February 23, 2021 is not only without profit but part of a 500,000 doses donation. More importantly it arrives as scheduled, unlike the other US vaccines hyped and promised, given early EUA but delivery likely many months later than scheduled.
China’s delivery on its pledges is a very good lesson for Filipinos who may still be Doubting Thomases about China’s words and intentions. China delivers. Being ideologically oriented China’s leadership takes words very seriously, so seriously some may say they are doctrinaire – very unlike liberal politicians of “democracies” who change tune each election.
Now the bad news
Although the Sinovac vaccine has arrived as promised and scheduled, and the Philippine vaccine panel had given it the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to start inoculations in the country, the vaccine panel also limits the use of the Sinovac vaccine to none front-liners and those above 18 years old and below 59 years old – which is a letdown and an enigma.
The inactivated virus vaccines of which Sinovac, and Sinopharm, are the best-known examples are not only known throughout the medical and vaccine industry as the most tired, tested and safest Covid-19 vaccines for all ages – but especially for the elderly up to the 90s. I am going 70 and had publicly promised to get my Sinovac shot on my TV show, now I may not be able to deliver on it.
What is inexplicable is the denial of Sinovac to front-line workers (doctors, nurses and health workers) in direct contact with Covid-19 patients. Sinovac is the only vaccine specifically tested on health workers, in Brazil which reported 100% efficacy in preventing moderate to serious cases, efficacy of 80% including mild cases and 50.4% overall. Western vaccines do not have detailed classification of efficacy.
Now, examine the logic of the Philippine vaccine panel’s recommendation denying front-line health workers the Sinovac vaccine. Even assuming for the sake of argument that the Sinovac is only 50.4% for health workers that means at least 50.4% of them won’t get moderate or severe Covid-19 infection and those infected will get only mild or even asymptomatic infection.
Listening to Dr. Lulu Bravo, PMA
Chairperson of the Philippine Medical Association Dr. Lulu Bravo was interviewed on ANC for almost half-an-hour on the issues limiting the use of Sinovac vaccine, and she explained that the vaccine panel was engaged in a heated debate on the issue of its use for front-line health worker and the decision may change as development arise.
The main reason as explained by Dr. Bravo is that some vaccines that are deemed more efficacious by some are being awaited, and the impression is that these “more efficacious” vaccines are expected in a week’s time after the arrival of the Sinovac vaccine. But his doesn’t make sense as, firstly, the controversy over vaccines’ varying efficacy is subject to so many unresolved factors and, there is immediately risk our front-line health workers are facing that can already immediately be mitigated.
The tenuous line of argument against the immediate use of Sinovac on front-line workers did not escape Dr. Lulu Bravo’s exposition, and she granted that the decision may change if the delays of the other vaccines prove longer than acceptable. Dr. Bravo showed signs that she was uncomfortable with the vaccine panel decision too, but repeatedly added that the decision may change.
But changing the decision is only part of the issue, the irrationality and illogicality of the decision itself should be pointed out and from a critical point-of-view reflects the bias of some members of the vaccine panel for the Western pharmaceuticals, a bias that is prevalent in the Philippine medical sector due to the decades of dominance of Western pharma representation in the country.
The Ugly Contradictions
The prohibition by the Philippine vaccine panel of Sinovac’s use on those above 59 years of age is contradictory to all reports on the safety of the inactivated virus vaccines such as Sinovac. In fact, over half a dozen elderly leaders of the world shows the global preference of inactivated vaccines, and in many cases, Sinovac, for the elderly.
Indonesian Vice-President Ma’ruf Amin who is 77 years old was vaccinated with Sinovac on February 17, 2021; 66 years old president Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had his Sinovac shot Jan. 14, 2021; Chile’s 71-years old president Sebastian Pinera got his Sinovac inoculation February 12, 2021; Indonesia president Jokowi Widodo is turning 60 in June got his Sinovac shot on February 27, 2021.
These countries that have no residual “colonial mentality” have no problem prioritizing the Chinese vaccines for their most esteemed and elderly members of their society. For the Philippines to ban this for the elderly like me is a contradiction of the most basic logic we derive from the evidence and practice shown in the rest of the world.
The same contradiction in logic is what we see in the limitation imposed on using Sinovac for the most at-risk sector of the front-line health workers, betraying a basic discriminatory tendency of a few of our health experts for and against certain vaccine sources. I have to credit the usually bias ANC Headline scriptwriters this time for raising the illogicality of the limitations on the Sinovac use.
My nephew is a medical equipment distributor of the major global brands, and he tells me that almost all the doctors he knows have gotten their vaccinations already. The most popular are the inactivated virus vaccines which everybody acknowledges to be the safest, while some less informed laymen are still gushing over the report of the US vaccines’ astronomical claims.
The reality is that all the vaccine trials are still incomplete and will take up to two years to complete the full cycle required, hence the propensity today to rush the EUA. The trade-off is a necessary one now, start vaccinations for hear immunity to restore normality in the global and national economies. The alternative is continued economic declines and expansion of poverty.
The Philippines is a fortunate country geographical, naturally insulated from the worst of any viral pandemic by the climate and the surrounding seas – which only air travel has punched massive holes in but which the Philippines must pay special attention to. Last year the Philippines lost $ 8.3-billion in tourism revenues due to Covid-19, the “vaccine passport” is essential to its early recovery.
The Philippine also needs a vaccine against “racism” which still plagues the mainstream Philippine media that results in real health and economic losses to the people, as our colleague Ado Paglinawan wrote in his book entitled “No Vaccine for a Virus called Racism” about the Trump effort to tag the virus
In the meantime, I await the Philippine vaccine panel’s reconsideration of its imposed limits on Sinovac use.