YUSUF ASHRAF “JOEY”
In contrast to the Sinovac vaccine, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson had an average of 45,000 participants in all of its clinical trials. These three major pharmaceutical companies are transparent in their data and anyone can even Google search it. Moreover, their phase 3 clinical trials had global participants (Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Latin America, Brazil and Argentina) with trial populations that were racially and ethnicallydiverse and covering different age groups (from 16 years old to 85 yrs. old). And based on the data, which were peer reviewed by independent advisory bodies of the FDA, all their vaccines were consistently safe and effective with efficacy rates ranging from 72% to 95%. Efficacy that prevents moderate to serious illness, hospitalization and deaths. On the other hand, Sinovac had four wildly confusing, inconsistent and overlapping efficacy rates in its global clinical trials in Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil.
A major challenge, therefore, for China’s vaccine industry is to overcome concerns about product safety and credibility of its effectivity. More research is needed to ensure that benefits in taking the Sinovac outweigh any adverse effects. Opaque in its clinical trial data, it is not surprising why Sinovac has faced criticism from majority of the 192 countries and regions. For these reasons, Chinese vaccine makers must embrace transparency and publish their data, warts and all. Global surveys, including in our country, are showing low public confidence in the Sinovac vaccine. In short, one could say that our country bungled its first vaccine rollout.
With that being said, and lest we will end up with rising numbers of anti-vaxxers, vaccine refuseniks, and vaccine hesitants in our country, the Duterte administration should avoid cutting corners when purchasing vaccines, and also, when accepting vaccinedonations. Expediency borne out of desperation is not a substitute for our people’s health and safety. We do know that all countries are vaccine hungry; nonetheless, there are times beggars can also be choosers. Desperate the Filipino people are in getting inoculated, however, they are not that dumb to have the jabs in their arms without first checking as to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
With the emerging UK and South African COVID variantsinvading our shores, there is more reason that we have to be extremely cautious when receiving (by way of donation), purchasing and choosing the type of vaccines. And it all boils down to the pharmaceutical company’s transparency of its clinical trials and the opportunity for the Food Drug and Administration of the Philippines to thoroughly review the scientific data before an Emergency Use Authorization will be approved.
Finally, enough of the fool’s argument that our country does not have the money to purchase the vaccines. Actually, we are a country pretending to be poor when we are essentially rich! The billions of pesos of government funds that have been the subject of endemic fraud, waste and abuse (aka corruption) by our publicly elected officials, civil servants, police and the military, are clear manifestations that indeed we have tons of money. The PDAF (pejoratively called “pork barrel”) of each of the membersin the House and the Senate, which amounts to billions of pesos;the military’s intelligence funds; the discretionary funds of the President; and the IRA of the local governments (which has served as the pork of the local officials), among others, if realigned, through budget reconciliation, is more than enough to purchase the 161 million doses of vaccines it is targeting to purchase in its goal to achieve “herd immunity” by inoculating 70 million of its 108 million people, or two-thirds of the population. YAPT