The vaccine against the dreaded COVID-19 is our best chance to end this current pandemic. After several months of waiting, many Filipinos are finally seeing hope as a number of highly promising COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available in the country. Just recently, the national government has announced that it may start rolling out its long-awaited COVID-19 vaccination program in February, when the first doses of vaccines arrive1.
This recent announcement has evoked curiosity of many Filipinos and sparked questions regarding the vaccines, its acquisition, distribution and the like. To help answer some, if not all, of your questions, Trinity Insurance Brokers Inc has put together the frequently asked questions gathered from the Department of Health and other government and news websites in the country.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
1. Why do we need to get vaccinated for COVID-19?
Along with proper observance of minimum public health standards, vaccination is an important way to protect yourself from getting severe COVID-192.
2. How do vaccines prevent disease?
In general, vaccines work by introducing inactivated, weakened or killed copies of the whole or part of the disease-causing pathogen to our bodies. This in turn stimulates our immune system to naturally produce cells or specific antibodies that will fight the virus. Once our immune system has successfully eliminated these foreign elements inside our bodies, it will remember the disease and the antibodies it previously produced to fight it. If we are then exposed to the real virus in the future, our immune system already knows how to destroy the virus before it can even make us seriously sick3.
In the case of SARS-CoV-2, a new type of vaccine has emerged using new technology taking advantage of the process that cells use to make proteins in order to trigger an immune response (instead of using part of the virus itself) and build immunity to our bodies.
3. How do vaccines differ?
Vaccines differ in their composition and how they trigger the immune response to create antibodies. These antibodies protect the body from microorganisms and serve as the protection once a person gets infected with the disease. Vaccines can be inactivated, weakened, or killed copies of the whole or part of the virus or bacteria, or genetic product (like mRNA vaccines) that creates protein copies without causing disease2.
4. What are the possible side effects of vaccination?
The possible side effects of a vaccine include pain, redness, itchiness or swelling at the injection site (which may last a few hours); fever; feeling of weakness or fatigue; headache; dizziness; diarrhea; or nausea2. Consult the nearest healthcare professional if you experience any of these.
5. Who will get COVID-19 vaccine first?
Given the limited supply of vaccine in the short to medium term, frontline health workers, senior citizens, the indigent population, and uniformed personnel are the priority groups to be vaccinated first2.
6. Why will the prioritized groups get the vaccine first?
Frontline health workers and uniformed personnel are prioritized since they have a higher risk of exposure while on duty. Getting vaccinated first will allow them to safely continue fulfilling their duties in both the public and private sectors. On the other hand, vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the indigent population, are prioritized guided by the principle of equity2.
7. Is the vaccine free for priority groups?
Yes. The cost of vaccines for priority groups will be shouldered by the Philippine government2.
8. How will I get access to the vaccine if I am not part of the priority group?
The government is continuing negotiations to ensure adequate vaccine supply for all Filipinos, including those not in the priority groups2.
9. Can I purchase the vaccine from private clinics or pharmacies?
No, you cannot purchase COVID-19 vaccines from private clinics or pharmacies. At present, only the government is duly authorized to procure and administer vaccines. Any COVID-19 vaccine should not be sold to the public until a full market authorization is issued by the FDA2.
10. Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective?
COVID-19 vaccines that are granted with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are considered safe and effective based on the available evidence to date2.
11. Can the vaccine provide complete immunity against COVID-19?
Usually, it takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against SARS-CoV-2) upon vaccination. This means that, just before or just after vaccination, a person could still be infected with COVID-19 and get sick because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection6. Also, since there is no available COVID-19 vaccine that offers 100% efficacy, people may still get infected. This is why we should still continue to observe and comply with all safety protocols even after inoculation.
12. What is Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?
EUA is an authorization granted through a risk-based procedure for assessing unregistered (under development) vaccines or drugs during public health emergencies of international concern. It aims to expedite availability of the vaccine or drug to people affected by public health emergency based on essential set of available quality, safety and efficacy performance data2.
13. Are there any risks or complications when given COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, like all other vaccines, there are risks of complications BUT SEVERE OR LIFE-THREATENING REACTIONS ARE EXTREMELY RARE. The benefit of protection against severe COVID-19 is greater than the risk. Anyone who will get the vaccine will be properly evaluated and closely monitored by health professionals to further minimize any risk2.
14. What are the initiatives of PH government to provide COVID-19 vaccines for Filipinos?
The government has been in close collaboration with several countries and international organizations that are engaged in the development and manufacturing of COVID 19 vaccine. So far, the Philippines has had negotiations with seven foreign vaccine R&D institutes and manufacturers who are ahead in the race for COVID 19 vaccine. The government has also signified its intent to participate in both the WHO Solidarity Trial on Vaccines and the GAVI COVAX Facility3.
15. What is COVAX Facility?
The COVAX Facility, co led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organization (WHO), is a platform that aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID 19 vaccines and to ensure that every country in the world is able to access the successful vaccines3.
16. Is vaccination mandatory?
No, vaccination is NOT mandatory. But the government highly encourages the public to get vaccinated in order to be protected against any preventable disease.2 Having the majority of population vaccinated will also help safely achieve herd immunity---the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection4.
17. Can we choose the brand of COVID-19 vaccine to be given by the government?
While vaccinations would be free, Filipinos cannot choose which specific brand of COVID-19 vaccine they want to receive in the government’s free coronavirus vaccination drive5.
18. What can we do while waiting for the vaccine?
While we are still waiting for the vaccine, continue observing the minimum public health standards to prevent further transmission of the virus. The government also urges the public to be more vigilant with the information found online. Make it a habit to fact check and verify with reliable sources (DOH Facebook page, DOH website, WHO website, PIA website) regarding new information about COVID-192.