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Opinion on Vaccines: Less Politics, More Listening to the Doctors

Dr. Gap Legaspi, director of the Philippine General Hospital, as he takes the Sinovac jab. Image from pna.gov.ph

More than a year ago, the Philippines was put under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), and today, we  are at square one once again. It’s as if nothing changed. Now, though, I’d like to think there is more hope with the slow but hopefully continuous arrival of the vaccines. 

Unfortunately, coinciding with this new ECQ development is the news of the 200 Chinese vessels in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Related news over the years have definitely contributed to a sentiment by a few that rejects anything for as long as it’s associated with China. If it’s from China, it’s automatically harmful and not safe, so the sentiment goes. From a social science perspective, such sentiment is uncritical, and it’s especially harmful now that the Sinovac vaccine has arrived in the country. 

And yet, many medical doctors and health professionals themselves have taken Sinovac. It may not have been everybody’s first choice, but the fact that several doctors are taking Sinovac publicly and on camera for the whole country to see sends a strong message. They are saying two things: take whatever vaccine is offered to you and the COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

 

Take whatever vaccine is offered to you. 

Simply put: we may not always know when the next offer will arrive. In that time of waiting for the next chance, we could get infected with the virus. Nowadays, we even hear cases of people — who haven’t left home — get infected because a family member transmitted the virus to them.

And yes, taking whatever’s offered to you may include taking the Sinovac vaccine. The first legal recipient of any COVID-19 vaccine in the country was Dr. Gerardo “Gap” Legaspi, no less than the director of the Philippine General Hospital himself. He and many other medical professionals received the Sinovac vaccine last March 1, 2021, the day after they arrived in the Philippines. 

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, the PGH director said this a day after he took his first Sinovac dose, “I feel good. I feel excited again to start another day because I saw the long line of vaccines outside waiting for their turn today. Generally, it went well for me except for a little soreness on my left shoulder, but otherwise, it was a regular day for me when I got home.”

Dr. Philip Tan-Gatue, an alumnus of the UP College of Medicine and an outspoken advocate of vaccines, took the Sinovac vaccine the same day Legaspi did. In a private Facebook post, he said, “I said I would get the first one I could get, so pinanindigan ko.” That’s taken verbatim from an actual expert, a medical doctor. 

 

Chinese General Hospital medical director Dr. Samuel Ang as he received the Sinovac vaccine. Image from Joaquin Sy

 

Dr. Samuel Ang, medical director of the Chinese General Hospital, also took the Sinovac vaccine. In an online forum this March, Ang said of his Sinovac experience, “Gua bo reaction ah (I haven’t experienced any reaction).” 

Just a disclaimer: this opinion article isn’t trying to say that everyone should take Sinovac. Secondly, I also don’t want to downplay the possibility of corruption and injustice happening within the Philippines when it comes to the vaccines. I condemn such practices to the highest degree, and they ought to be addressed by our government. Third, particularly for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the US, some have moral and ethical concerns regarding it, and those concerns should be addressed in the context of our country. 

Yet, the pandemic has gotten so bad, and day by day, it’s not getting better. Health professionals are dying, the economy is collapsing, and the mental health of young people is going way down. Such grave matters, in my opinion, necessitate that we ought to take the first vaccine that is offered to us. That’s what many doctors have been doing, and we ought to do so, too. 

 

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe. 

The vaccines will really be the game changer in the fight against COVID-19. Though many of them have been created within a year of the pandemic, the bottom line is that the vaccines are safe for public consumption.

Dr. Tan-Gatue — in an online forum last February — urged the public to be cautious about those who say the vaccines aren’t safe.

“The first COVID-19 patients were documented around December 26 (2019) in Wuhan, China. The virus sample was submitted to Wuhan CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) by December 30. By January 7, we had the viral sequence. So, with that, it was easy to make the vaccine,” said Tan-Gatue. Again, those are facts from the mouth of an expert, so I think we ought to take his word for it. 

Furthermore, according to Tan-Gatue, still rampant in some sectors of society is the myth that vaccines are unsafe because of the additives — like mercury and formaldehyde — that are in them. If that were so, millions of people would’ve already died over the past few decades. And yet, that’s not the case. 

“Formaldehyde is produced at higher rates than are present in vaccines by our own metabolic systems. If a little bit of formaldehyde in a vaccine is enough to cause you harm, then we would’ve been sick a long time ago by the minimal amount of formaldehyde in our own bodies,” Tan-Gatue said. 

 

So, we ought to emulate the words, deeds, and examples that the doctors are giving. They are the experts. They are the ones who are actually in the hospitals. I myself am merely writing about it and echoing their calls. So, if they say that the vaccines are safe, we ought to believe them. If they say we have to take them to end the pandemic, we have to take them to end the pandemic.

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The author of this article:

Aaron covers topics that range from business and ethics to culture and philosophy. He is currently a CHiNOY TV producer, a Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent, a Philippine Association for Chinese Studies lifetime member, and an Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Studies Program constituent. An occasional TikToker, he also loves Pokémon! Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aaron.joseph.s.medina/

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