Health experts to fellow frontliners: 'Best vaccine is one in your arm' as inoculation drive starts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 1)— Amid hesitancy from some citizens, experts from the medical field encouraged their fellow frontliners to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the best product is the one readily available for the inoculation program.

"The best vaccine is the one in your arm," Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, told CNN Philippines on Monday, also etched in history as the official first day of the coronavirus vaccine rollout in the country.

"What would be the use of waiting for another vaccine that we don’t know when will come?" she argued. "The more we can get to be vaccinated, the more that we can reach herd immunity, the faster we can prevent all these mutants and all these another wave coming in."

The country kicked off its much-awaited COVID-19 vaccination drive on Monday, a day after the first batch of Sinovac doses donated by China set foot in Philippine soil. Philippine General Hospital Director Dr. Gerardo "Gap" Legaspi received the first legal doses administered.

READ: State hospital PGH's director first to receive COVID-19 vaccine in PH

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Edsel Salvana echoed Bravo's sentiment, as he encouraged healthcare workers to get the vaccine that is available now.

"'Yun lang po talaga ang hinihingi ko sa inyo na tanggapin po natin kung ano man ang bakunang nandiyan dahil ito po ay makakapagsalba ng buhay," Salvana said in a media briefing in the same day.

[Translation: That's what I'm asking for-- that we accept whatever vaccine is there because this will save lives.]

Gov't officials share views

Government officials part of the country's COVID-19 task force shared the health experts' view, stressing that the country would need to start inoculations as early as possible to get closer to the goal of getting back to pre-pandemic life.

"We have only Sinovac. So ito po tangkilikin natin, suportahan po natin ito. At ito po ay ang susi para magumpisa nang manumbalik sa normal ang buhay ng mga Pilipino," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a speech at the Lung Center of the Philippines.

[Translation: We only have Sinovac. So we should support this. This is the key for us Filipinos to start going back to our normal lives.]

"There is no such thing as best vaccine, dahil ang best vaccine ay 'yung effective at efficient na dumarating nang mas maaga," vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a separate event.

"Ano ang magiging importance ng vaccine na nakita natin na mataas na efficacy, pero darating this coming pang third quarter and fourth quarter? Sabi nga ng mga dalubhasa, kung ano ang unang vaccine, kunin na natin 'yun," he added.

[Translation: There is no such thing as best vaccine, because the best vaccine is the one that is effective and efficient and arrives earlier. What would be the importance of a vaccine that has a high efficacy, but still arriving in the third and fourth quarter? As experts would say, whatever vaccine comes first, let's get it.]

Several groups and netizens earlier expressed concern over the use of China's Sinovac vaccine, which reported an efficacy rate of around 50.4% in late-stage vaccine trials in Brazil. Sinovac General Manager Helen Yang in an earlier interview with CNN Philippines stressed that these trials covered healthcare workers who were more exposed to the virus.