Editorial: The curious case of the 0.00000086%

·3 min read

God rest her soul. The story of Sydney Rose Panimdim, a cleaning woman at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center who died on April 11, had at once turned into a cautionary tale of sorts on the Covid-19 vaccine.

The 37-year-old Panimdim from Tanke, Talisay, had to beg off from the rest of the day’s work after feeling ill on April 10. She had her second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine a day earlier. The asthma attack that she felt after her first dose in March recurred on April 11, prompting her family to rush her to the Talisay District Hospital where she heaved her last breath. With the sequence of events, Panimdim’s relatives couldn’t help but link her demise to the vaccine.

Fear and myth have their way of taking flight in their lightest terms though, which is why we need the validation of science to ground us back to what’s solid and real.

The Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas said causality had to be established beyond doubt. DOH 7 spokesperson Mary Jean Loreche said they are now retrieving all medical data pertaining to Panimdim’s case for analysis. The report automatically logs into a global network of laboratories dedicated to monitoring the vaccines.

Panimdim’s case comes at a time when a continent away, the US had halted the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following reports of cases of rare blood clots in six women between the ages of 18 to 48. The US had already rolled out nearly seven million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot jab per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pause, said the US Food and Drug Admnistration, is “out of an abundance of caution.” This will allow time for the vaccine’s effects to be studied. The FDA, despite the diminutive percentage of adverse cases at 1-in 1.1 million vaccinations, decided to halt the rollout. This is in a country that had been fortunate to be beneficiary of a host of vaccine manufacturers—a homecourt advantage of sorts, to use a sporting term.

In contrast, in the Philippines where the waiting game seems like hanging on to that one drop of charm from a magical fruit, our version of a vaccination pause comes natural—we’re simply out of supply. So whether or not there is fear among citizens on the vaccine, the jabs aren’t coming aplenty anyway.

But, yes, since it is incumbent upon vaccine users to stay alert on any adversity that surfaces around inoculation time, the DOH makes the right steps to take Panimdim’s case into account to get to the bottom of causality.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force agaisnt Covid-19, had warned of another surge of infections come June or July. “The pandemic is far from over. There is a wrong notion that the Covid-19 is already finished in some other countries. It can reappear anytime,” he said.

We’re at a volatile situation where more variants may alter the course of the pandemic—be it in transmissibility, vaccine efficacy or severity. This, unfortunately, is the new normal. There is no going back to much chillier times that we knew.

What government can do is to sustain and speed up vaccination for its citizens. We need to beef up vaccine supply and push for speedier delivery.

Citizens’ fears over the vaccine will dissipate with the onslaught of numbers indicating its safety.