Humanity is rolling out a vaccination program to help end the COVID-19 pandemic in restore as much of pre-quarantine daily life as possible, for the Philippines, it will start in early 2021.
While mass immunization will help, experts said a vaccine is not a silver bullet. People still need to wear face masks and face shields when required, wash their hands frequently, observe up to two meters in social distancing and avoid large crowds for the meantime.
The virus is still here and strict implementation of minimum health standards is underscored by the fact that European mega cities like Paris, London and Amsterdam have restored quarantines to control a surge in infections during the Christmas season.
OUR VACCINE COVERAGE:
Ateneo de Manila's Arete published an article from Dr. Angeles Tan Alora, former president and adviser to the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, where she answered in simple terms, frequently asked questions on the vaccine.
Is the vaccine safe and effective?
There's no such thing as a vaccine, that is "completely safe or perfectly effective," Alora said. It's a matter of weighing the risks of getting vaccinated versus catching SARS-CoV-2 or any virus for that matter.
Weighing such risks is the job of the Food and Drug Administration, which will clear any vaccine for commercial use. While clinical trials are underway, President Rodrigo Duterte authorized the FDA to approve a vaccine for "emergency" use, which could make the process faster. The regulator has not used such power.
MORE ON VACCINE TRIALS
Where can you get a COVID vaccine?
Alora said there are four potential sources: a vaccine FDA-approved for public use, one that is FDA-approved for clinical trials, the black market and overseas for those who can afford to fly out to get innoculated. Manila authorities recently cracked down on illegal vaccines in Binondo.
The country's vaccine czar, Sec. Carlito Galvez, said the Philippines was looking at multiple sources. Authorities have mentioned Pfizer from the U.S., Astra Zeneca from the UK and Sinovac from China.
HOW TO VACCINATE ALL OF HUMANITY:
What should you consider before getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
Alora recommended asking a few questions before getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Are you exposed to the disease? If you are the "average sociable Filipino," you definitely are.
Consider your immune system too. Is your immune system compromised? Is it robust enough? Are you undergoing treatment that suppresses your immune system?
Vaccines are not advisable for those with fever. Consider too if you are likely to develop adverse reactions, which range from redness and soreness of the vaccine site to allergies. "If you have had previous allergic reactions to vaccination, think twice," she said.
Are there moral considerations?
Yes, according to Alora. In case of short supply, there could be someone who is at higher risk of COVID-19. If the answer is yes, to whom should you give your place in the vaccine queue.
"The vaccination program is not only about protecting oneself. It is also about protecting the other, protecting the whole nation," she said.
Should you secure a vaccine, consider too if the drug has been handled properly on its way to the Philippines. Some vaccines require storage at certain temperatures.
VACCINE PROGRAMS AROUND THE WORLD:
What can you do while waiting for a vaccine?
First off, be critical of the information you get. The world's gatekeepers have raised the alarm over misinformation on vaccines. Fact check and rely on verified sources such as the WHO, Alora said.
"Spread the right information! Correct all and any misinformation!" she said.
Stay indoors, avoid crowded areas when you absolutely need to get out of the house.