POSTSCRIPT / January 21, 2021 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Docs know Covid-19 better than pols do

WHEN debating which vaccine(s) to deploy against the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed more than 2,060,000 lives — 9,980 of them in the Philippines – we should listen more to doctors and public health experts than to politicians and generals.

A review of the division of labor, or a clarification of the roles that various actors play in the survival drama, is needed because life has become so stressful with us fighting an unseen virus while enduring day-to-day economic pressure.

Pharma firms interested in having their vaccines used in the mass inoculation of 70-percent of the population should submit their proposals to the Food and Drug Administration – not to Malacañang – for the checking and certification of their products’ safety and efficacy.

Only vaccines approved by the FDA would be considered for purchase and distribution by the Department of Health and the Task Force implementing the vaccination plan.

The ultimate decision of choosing which vaccine to use will be made by the person into whose arm the serum will be injected. But if only one vaccine is available, possibly pre-selected for him, that will be his only choice, take it or leave it.

We think that there should be reasonable effort to offer him at least two vaccines to choose from, cafeteria-style.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have no say in the vetting of the vaccines or in executing the mass inoculation. Their inquiry is just in aid of legislation, and the resulting laws or remedial amendments will be for future application.

We the mass media are around mainly to report and record what is/isn’t being done and serve as a forum or a communication link for the people, the government, and other affected entities discussing the common subject.

Clarifying the basic role of each player is timely amid reports that President Duterte has ordered Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the implementor of the action plan against Covid-19, to share with the Senate the details of agreements on the vaccination plan.

Apparently told that some senators want the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be included in the mass inoculation, Duterte highlighted in his TV message Monday a news item about some seriously ill old folk in Norway who died after they were injected with the Pfizer serum.

Duterte said: “You senators want Pfizer? In Norway, 25 persons died after receiving Pfizer vaccination. Do you want it? We’ll order for you. That’s what you want as it repeatedly gets reported in articles.

Walang magic diyan (There’s no magic there). Kaya sabi ko nga, eh, kayong mga doubting Thomases, kung gusto ninyo, kayo na lang (That’s why I’m telling you doubting Thomases, if you want, you do it yourselves).

I-surrender namin lahat ‘yung (we will surrender all)… so far what we have accomplished. You can form a committee or create a committee by a body – tingnan ninyo ang labas-labasan, ganoon din (look at the outcome, it will be the same).

“Either maniwala kayo sa amin o maniwala kayo sa akin o maniwala kayo sa kanila (you believe us or you believe me or you believe them). Maniwala kayo sa kanila (Believe them), you are free to believe them.”

It seems that Duterte, who has shown preference for the vaccine of Sinovac Biotech of China from which 25 million doses of vaccines have been ordered, had been misinformed that the senators were endorsing Pfizer.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson was among those who had noted discrepancies in the testimony of Galvez, particularly in the pricing of Sinovac and the timetable for distributing the projected 148 million doses of the vaccine.

He and other senators have been pressing the former general to disclose the acquisition cost of the Sinovac vaccine in view of reports of a staggering overprice (P1,800 vs P240 per dose), an indication of possible corruption. Galvez has declined to tell them the price.

In a briefing Tuesday in Malacañang, Galvez said: “There’s no corruption in our negotiations. The prices of the vaccines we are purchasing are covered by the non-disclosure agreement, that’s why we cannot disclose it to the public. We might lose the 148 million doses we are negotiating for if we violate the agreement.”

 Deaths among old vaccinees explained

AS REGARDS the news cited by Duterte of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinees in Norway dying days after being injected, followup reports said that the deceased were aged 75 or older and included terminally ill patients.

An average of 400 people die each week in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in that country, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

This implies that while terminally ill old people would die soon, a vaccine could trigger adverse reactions that, in tandem with existing morbidity or preexisting conditions, could result in earlier death.

Because of the incident, Norway sent out advisories that giving shots to the very old and terminally ill may be risky. Its government moved to calm some of the anxiety, saying there is no evidence of a direct link between the deaths and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Like other countries, Norway has prioritized the immunization of nursing-home residents. It said many of those who received the first dose have experienced fever, headache and pain at the point of injection—common reactions that are not generally serious.

Norwegian officials said they would not rule out, however, that these reactions could potentially be life-threatening in patients with severe underlying health problems.

Germany has also seen cases of elderly people dying shortly after vaccination. A report by the Paul Ehrlich Institute said the deaths were probably due to the patients’ underlying diseases, not the inoculation.

Finland has recommended against systematic vaccinations of terminally ill patients whose active treatment has been stopped as common side-effects such as temporary fever can weaken their condition. The reactions, however, are not expected in majority of vaccinees.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 21, 2021)

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Dear Sir Pascual, In general, it is (or should be) true that physicians know better than politicians regarding the coronavirus (and other health and medical issues0, but we have to qualify that "physicians" refer to those who actually do their own research and study and not depend only on what pharmaceutical companies and vaccine makers provide them, Many of the physicians I have gone to know very little except prescribe medications and the standard therapies and treatments without going through a thorough examination and study of the patient's situation.

Edgar

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