Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world has looked at vaccines (arguably) as its biggest hope in ending the crisis. Now that some of them are here—developed at warp speed—many are still apprehensive on whether or not to get it, largely due to safety concerns.
In this #SummitOriginals video, Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, a public health expert from the Department of Health's Technical Advisory Group, elaborates on why it makes sense to get any vaccine that is offered to you. In the global health emergency spawned by COVID, vaccines are an issue of access, rather than choice.
"I think the bottomline really is to think about vaccination as not an issue of choice as much as an issue of access. Because much as we are used to the concept that we want to have options for drug and vaccines, we are really in a situation where getting any vaccine is more important than choosing which vaccine to get. So the best vaccine is the one that's in your arm."
Watch this video for her full explanation:
For reference, here's the full transcript:
Can you choose a vaccine on the basis of licensing?
Licensure is actually based on completion of Phase 3 trials and none of the current vaccines have completed their Phase 3 trials. Why are they made available for use? It's precisely because there's a global emergency so we are authorizing the use of these vaccines under very strict control by our regulatory authorities so that any issue with respect to safety and efficacy can be addressed immediately and if necessary, the product can we withdrawn from the market. The point here is that none of the vaccines are licensed. All of the products are only being used for emergency use authorization.
How about comparing efficacy rates—is one vaccine better than another?
If we are saying, "I am holding out for this vaccine because I heard that the efficacy is better", these numbers are so fluid that what was quoted in late last year in December are different now because more data is coming in, and there's been a longer period of observation. So basically, we can't choose on the basis of efficacy because the numbers are so fluid. We can't choose on the basis of which product is licensed because none of them are licensed, and all of them are actually being used under an EUA.
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What's the assurance that the vaccine you'll be offered, regardless of the brand, is safe and effective?
I'd like to show you this really complicated diagram that tries to summarize our vaccine selection, procurement, logistics, and deployment process. You would see here that every step of the way, there is a review panel that looks at safety and efficacy, and other aspects of vaccination.
First, the Vaccine Expert Panel at the top looks at the different clinical trials that ask to be done in the country and gives the go ahead.
Second, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looks at safety and efficacy and is the one in charge of releasing our Emergency Use Authorizations.
Third, the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) looks at cost benefit or cost effectives. They answer the question, "Is it wise for the government to use its resources to buy these vaccines?" Sulit bang pagkagastusan ng government yung bakunang ito base doon sa assessment ng cost effectiveness and cost benefit?
Fourth, the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) on the other hand decides which groups need to be prioritized because the goal of our vaccination program primarily is to decrease the number of cases and the number of deaths.
Finally, we have the National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee (NAEFIC) that looks at the different adverse events that people might have experienced after they were vaccinated. So basically every step of the way, you have different pairs of eyes looking at the same data, making decisions to ensure that any vaccine that makes it to our program is safe and efficacious. Currently the more important consideration is really to prioritize the vaccine that becomes accessible to you first.