The First 60 Days Of COVID-19 Vaccination: Pinoys Share Their Experience With Their LGUs
Is it okay to feel optimistic?
Over the past year, the Philippines has grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, with hospitals and isolation facilities operating at full capacities, often to the brink of collapse. The surge in infection rates and new variants has forced people to stay at home to limit external exposure. Businesses had to shut down eventually, and millions of workers lost their livelihood.
As there is no cure yet for COVID-19, it is apparent that the only way we could live a “normal” life again is with the help of a vaccine. “Vaccines are a critical new tool in the battle against COVID-19,” the World Health Organization has stated, and it is hoped that as they become available, getting enough people inoculated could significantly help curb the health crisis.
In March 2021, the Philippines followed suit on most developing countries' growing vaccination efforts and started working towards its national benchmark of inoculating 70 million people in its first year of rollout to achieve herd immunity.
As there is currently a limited supply, the national government is working closely with local government units (LGU) to properly allocate the available vaccines, which are CoronaVac (by manufacturer Sinovac), Vaxzevria (by AstraZeneca), and Sputnik V (by the Gamaleya Institute). Negotiations with other vaccine manufacturers are in progress. The Department of Health (DOH) has also come up with a list of priority groups (medical frontliners, senior citizens, people with comorbidities), citing the most vulnerable sectors in the country.
Does a COVID-19 vaccine spark a shimmer of light in our way back to normalcy? OneLife.ph caught up with five individuals belonging to the priority categories to ask about their experiences in getting vaccinated in their respective LGUs.
For Sofia Malijan, an optometrist from Sto. Tomas, Batangas, getting herself vaccinated was a smooth process. "The city health center was the one who contacted us, and after two days, I got my first dose. There weren't any long lines at all," the 54-year old, who belongs to category A1 (Workers in Frontline Health Services), shares.
When asked about her primary motivator for getting the vaccine, she said she's never had doubts that it's an essential protective measure against the COVID-19 virus. She received the AstraZeneca vaccine and felt no adverse effects, likening the experience to that of getting a flu vaccine.
Note: Sofia got her first shot on March 25, but on April 8, the FDA temporarily suspended usage of the AstraZeneca vaccine on patients below 60 years old following a finding by the European Medicines Agency that blood clots could be a rare side effect.
It was a different story for Charlotte Castillo, 36, a marketing and sales manager at a private hospital in Tanauan, Batangas. She is also listed under the A1 category, but unlike Sofia, Charlotte was initially undecided on getting the vaccine.
"I was feeling reluctant at first! But after receiving a lot of convincing words from my family and colleagues and doing research to gain a fuller picture of the vaccines' efficacy, I decided to push through." She shares that the process went smoothly, and clear procedures were in place, from a pre-screening interview to assess her qualifications, to getting a vaccination card as a ticket for her second dose. Charlotte got Sinovac.
Getting a vaccine was a no-brainer for 70-year-old researcher Aurea Roxas, who is listed under A2 (Senior citizens aged 60 years old and above). Her work involves a lot of traveling, so getting herself protected is imperative.
"Naiintindihan ko ang kahalagahan ng vaccine sa pagprotekta against a virus," she says about what encouraged her to get vaccinated. She shares that she was approached by a friend from a municipal health office in Munoz, Nueva Ecija, asking if she would like to get the vaccine, and days after, she was in line. She observed an estimated number of 100-150 senior citizens queued up for the morning and afternoon time slots, saying the process didn't take too long. The time it took her, from registration to getting her turn, was around 2.5 hours. Aurea got Sinovac.
Both Guio Naredo, 27, and Jes Concepcion, 28, are firm believers of the efficacy of vaccines, which is why they got themselves inoculated at their respective local health offices. They both fall under the A3 category (Adults with comorbidities).
Guio works as a planning and development coordinator in the municipality of Victoria, Laguna. As an LGU staff, he signed up when the Rural Health Unit opened the vacant slots to employees with comorbidities when there were few local citizens registering for the vaccine. He says everything was fairly easy, with the 7-step process taking him only 30 minutes to finish. He also didn't feel any side effects afterward. Guio got Sinovac.
As for Jes, he was pleasantly surprised by the streamlined vaccination process in Taguig City in Metro Manila. "We had to sign up through Trace Taguig's website. Once you've signed up, you'll be provided with a QR code, and you'll get an SMS/email if you're eligible. After a week of waiting, I got my vaccination schedule."
On the day of the vaccination, Jes says the line wasn't as bad as he had anticipated. He was advised that walk-in would be fine for his next dose. Jes got Sinovac.
Where do we stand now?
The government is currently still in the initial phase of its vaccination efforts, and only 0.2% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated as of writing.
The first few who took the leap on getting themselves vaccinated have so far reported no drastic adverse effects. In its April 10 press release, the DOH and FDA reported that out of more than 1 million individuals who got inoculated, only 0.04% experienced AEFI (Adverse Events Following Immunization).
"Even that doesn't necessarily mean that the vaccine causes the events," says FDA Director-General Rolando Enrique Domingo. The risk, he explains, was proved to be coincidental and is much lower than the COVID-19 virus fatality rate, now at 1.69%.
“As I receive my dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, I invite everyone to do the same, and choose to be protected. Let us all take part in protecting public health, and let us be in unison in spreading one message: that vaccines are safe, and vaccines are effective,” DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III addressed the Filipino people.