The arrival of the 600,000 doses of CoronaVac, the vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) that was donated by the Chinese government and manufactured by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd., at the beginning of the month signaled a turnaround in the country’s fight against the pandemic that has ravaged the country for almost a year.
But despite national and local government officials referring to them as “doses of hope,” their arrival was met with muted enthusiasm and plenty of skepticism as the public questioned its efficacy rate of just over 50 percent.
The CoronaVac vaccines, though, are not intended for everybody. They are reserved for public and private medical workers who are exposed to Covid-19 patients.
Here in Cebu, first in line to get injected with the vaccines were employees of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC). Initially, fewer than half of the hospital’s workforce agreed to the vaccination on March 4, 2021, opting instead to wait for a “better” option.
Since then, their numbers have risen. Perhaps their confidence in the China-made vaccine was bolstered by the example set by VSMMC head Dr. Gerardo Aquino Jr., who became the first frontliner in the Visayas and Mindanao to receive the vaccine. Retired general Melquiades Feliciano, deputy chief implementer of the Inter-Agency Task Force in the Visayas, and Department of Health 7 spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche also joined him.
When it was the turn of medical workers in private hospitals to get the jab on March 9, Cebu Doctors’ Hospital Group owner Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal III was among the hundreds of frontliners who were injected.
The next day, University of Cebu Medical Center (UCMed) president Candice Gotianuy took the lead.
“I said let’s do it because we can’t afford to be choosy at this point. I wanted to show them (medical frontliners) because there has been so much controversy about Sinovac. So I took the first shot in our vaccination program against Covid-19 at UCMed,” she told SunStar Cebu’s Johanna O. Bajenting.
According to the Philippine News Agency, a total of 9,000 health workers from eight private hospitals in the whole of Cebu have been lined up for the government’s vaccination rollout.
Medical workers who have opted to pass up on the chance to get vaccinated with CoronaVac because of a bias against the Chinese brand undermine the government’s efforts to put an end to the pandemic.
Perhaps they and the public need to be reminded that the use of CoronaVac was given emergency approval by the Philippine Government last month and that the country is not the only one in the world to be administering it to its citizens.
Dr. Reginita Uy, chief of clinics at the St. Vincent General Hospital, summed it up best: “As doctors, we recommend that the best vaccine for you, unless there is an absolute contraindication, is the first one that you can get because the earlier you get vaccinated, the earlier you get protected.”