Can vaccines possibly prevent transmission of COVID-19? This will require long-term surveillance after the roll-out of the vaccination program, as explained by a medical expert during the recent Town Hall Meeting on COVID-19 held on February 26.
This is just one of the issues discussed by one of the resource persons during the forum, Dr. Marion A. Kwek, Chair of the Health Education Committee of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID). The Virtual Town Hall Meeting was organized by the Mimaropa regional offices of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
“In a way, it may be an advantage for us to acquire the vaccines later than the other countries that have already rolled-out the vaccination program, as their trials indicate how much this can really prevent transmission”, Kwek said.
Kwek further said that most of the vaccine trials focused on two aspects: prevention of clinical disease and prevention of severe diseases.
“Halimbawa, kapag na-expose ka, kung magkaroon ka man ng mga sintomas, maiiwasan ng mas malubhang sakit, parang magiging sipon na lang at maiiwasan yung mapunta ka sa ospital o ICU (For instance, you get exposed, so even as you exhibit symptoms, severe diseases may be avoided. Perhaps, you may get colds only, but it can prevent hospitalization or ICU)”.
There is no such thing as a ‘perfect intervention’, according to Kwek. The minimum public health standards, such as physical distancing, ventilation, wearing of masks, hand hygiene, surface cleaning, quarantine and isolation – they all add to the protection, while vaccination is another layer to prevent COVID-19.
Dr. Kwek encourages those who will be offered free vaccination not to hesitate and to take advantage of the opportunity, especially among the medical health workers who are on the top priority in the strategic distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. The doctor stressed that the offer to inject free vacciness is not mandatory, but rather voluntary.
“I am sure that there will still be those will refuse getting injected with the vaccine, despite being presented with the data on its safety and effectivity. We respect their individuality. Walang pilitan (nobody will be forced). However, they must remember that that the vaccines do not come from a ‘deep well’ and that we do not have unlimited stock. So if they give up their slot, they can not be assured when the next chance will come”, Kwek said. (Melanie B. Ronquillo/PIA-MIMAROPA)