Screengrabbed from DOH CHD MIMAROPA Facebook live

An allergology and immunology specialist suggested that there are benefits to the delay in the shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines because this gives local health officials enough time to verify their efficacy rates.

Dr. Maria Carmela Kasala, president of the Philippine Society of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (PSAAI), made the remark after an infectious disease specialist explained that there is reportedly little data on COVID-19 vaccines’ efficacy rates because it is still a relatively new vaccine. Thus, observing countries who have already started vaccinating their citizens would be ideal.

(Upper level, middle) Dr. Marion Kwek of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Inc. (PSMID), and (upper right) Dr. Maria Carmela Kasala of the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (PSAAI)

During a virtual town hall meeting hosted by the Department of Health (DOH) MIMAROPA on Friday (February 26), infectious disease expert Dr. Marion Kwek of the Philippine Society of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (PSMID) first responded to a query on how long COVID-19 immunity would last on a vaccine recipient. Kwek answered that because these types of vaccines have only recently been rolled-out, there is little data to address the issue.

Kasala remarked that the Philippines is at an advantage being delayed in its vaccine roll-out program because this gives time for local experts to determine the vaccines’ efficacy in other countries which have already began their vaccinations.

“Kailangan ganoon ang attitude, hindi ‘yong nagagalit tayo bakit tayo nade-delay, bakit tayo last na nakaka-receive. Ang lokohan nga sa social media ay February 31 na raw tayo makaka-receive ng bakuna. Pero, kidding aside, there is also a benefit in a little day in vaccination because we can observe what the other countries are going through,” she said.

“They [other countries] already administered millions [of vaccines], so they can have these surveillance studies already. In fact, this February, they are ending their six-month surveillance for these vaccines since they rolled out, so we will benefit from their experience. And if we a little bit delayed, that’s alright, we learned something new and we can use it to our advantage,” she added.

The Philippines is the only country in the ASEAN region that has yet to receive COVID-19 vaccines from various manufacturers. Health authorities attributed the delay to the indemnification measure, with which the Philippine government agrees not to hold vaccine companies liable for any untoward events. This resulted in many Filipinos expressing disappointment over the delay since the national government promised to roll out the vaccination program in February.