Malilong: Scary

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

As expected, we ran out of Covid-19 vaccines. It did not take long to happen. We simply did not have a lot to begin with.

Now, we wait for our next allocation from Manila. Again, it will not be much, perhaps even less than what we got when we grandly announced a rollout. The news is that only 500,000 doses of Sinovac arrived from China last week. How much will our share be? Go figure. “Rollout” was a misnomer.

But do not despair. More doses will be coming as vaccine manufacturers ramp up production to meet the world demand and still satisfy the greed of nations like the United States that have been hoarding millions of doses that could have been put to use and saved thousands of lives elsewhere.

I heard that starting next month, Moderna will begin delivering a few thousand doses of the millions that a group of companies have already paid for. While the private initiative was conceived primarily to immunize company employees and their families, the general population can still benefit as a large share of the importation will be donated to the government.

The greater bulk of our vaccines will, however, still come from China. It is clear that Sinovac is the administration’s vaccine of choice, a decision that I assume was dictated more by considerations of price and availability than of efficacy. As they keep on saying, the best vaccine is the one that is jabbed into your arm.

In fact, while the matter of vaccine efficacy rate is discussed in the Department of Health website (www.doh.gov.ph), only three brands were included. Sinovac was not one of them; only AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were.

The omission could be unintentional or if it was not, there was just no sufficient data yet to warrant a conclusion at the the time the Q and A was published. The latter seems unlikely, however, since the post was made on March 24, which is only a little more than a month ago.

A recent Reuters dispatch, citing analysis by Chile’s health officials, could provide a clue. The wire agency said Sinovac was “only 16 percent effective in preventing infection and 36 percent at keeping people out of the hospital after one dose.”

Maybe, we can learn a lesson or two from the Chilean experience. The Andean nation ordered 14.2 million doses of Sinovac when it launched in February a mass inoculation campaign that is said to be the envy of Latin America. Reuters said, however, that because of vaccine shortages and the scant protection offered by a single Sinovac shot, Chile is shifting its vaccination strategy.

Instead of administering new shots, Chile will prioritize issuing second shots to beef up protection for the recipients. It should be noted, however, that 13 million Chileans have already received at least a single dose. The number is two million short of the 15 million target population and they have only two million doses left in their warehouses.

We do not have that quantity. Not yet, but we will. If there is any factor going for us, it is that we will have an election next year. A largely unvaccinated population will be an issue that is hard to defend.

Some of us have received our first dose of Sinovac during the “rollout.” I trust that the DOH has reserved enough vaccines from its original allocation for our second dose. A 16 to 36 percent gamble is scary.