Vaccination or COVID?

Published February 16, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Flor G. Tarriela

To be or not to be vaccinated. That is the question. With so much information and (mis) information from medical experts or maybe claiming to be pseudo experts, it is actually confusing!

So, when Maan Hontiveros of Filipina CEO Circle (FCC) arranged for a virtual talk about COVID Vaccine, I gladly joined “An Evening Chat with Dr. Tommy Lichauco “, a US based board certified seasoned physician in family, preventive and occupational medicine.

Dr. Tommy explained the history of vaccines, how it works and how it has saved millions of lives.   Vaccines are very effective against disease prevention as in the case of polio, tetanus, measles etc. 

He said that COVID is a new disease, thus, we can assume that 100% of the population is susceptible to the virus.If there are no vaccine, natural herd immunity is needed to bring the epidemic under control. Herd immunity means when a large part of the population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides an indirect protection.Herd immunity requires about 80% of the population to get the disease and survive.  The Philippines with an estimated 110 million population, 88 million need to get the disease and develop antibodies to be immune.  Death in the Philippines due to COVID is currently at 11,515.With Philippine COVID mortality rate of 2%, it is expected that 1.76 million deaths will be experienced to achieve herd immunity.How costly! 

But Dr. Tommy says these deaths are now avoidable with the availability of the vaccines.  He explained the different vaccines available, how they work, temperature requirement etc. It’s assuring to know that Pfizer vaccine, he says, when its temperature goes beyond the required   limit, the chemical sensor in the transport container will change its color and not go back to the original, so you’ll know it’s no longer effective. He said that”the vaccination data show that with any of the available tested COVID 19 vaccines -death from COVID 19 is zero”.   He said that “the different vaccines have different efficacy rates for preventing clinical disease-from 95% down to 60%, but that all the vaccines show 100% effectiveness at preventing COVID and death in the clinical phase 3 trial of populations vaccinated.”

What about side effects? He said that doctors are trained what to do and that’s why one need to stay for a few minutes after vaccination.  He however emphasized, that what is important is that all those who were vaccinated who might get ill, will develop only mild to moderate illness, do not need hospitalization and do not die from COVID.This is better than getting COVID.

He said it is easy to count the deaths from COVID. But what has not been counted and considered  are the long-term complications of COVID called “long haul COVID” among the survivors. These survivors would now be free from COVID but may continue to feel weak and unable to resume their normal life activities. Oh my!

So Doc, which is the best vaccine to get?In summary, he said”all the vaccines (US, China Russia, India) are effective in immunizing the vaccinated person to build an immune system in advance and to repel the virus should it enter the host.  All the vaccines are effective in forming antibodies to fight COVID based on the clinical studies.” He reminded: Lets trust the Science. 

Filipina CEO Circle

What is FCC? FCC was organized in 2014 with the objective to mentor, inspire and support women to break the glass ceiling.  Headed by President Sharon Dayoan and Chairman Cristina Concepcion, it iscomposed of some 60 plus women CEOs in various industries – accounting, banking, trading, manufacturing, services etc.Monthly webinars are held with diverse topics such as “Bloom in Zoom” by Sobee Choa of Mary Kay to “Economic Outlook’ with former Finance Secretary Gary Teves and USEC Romy Bernardo among others. This group is also making a difference by partnering with schools and hosts INSPIRED Conversations campus series where FCC ladies share the challenges they lived through and overcame.As most FCC ladies are officers of other organizations, we get invited to their webinars too. Zondy Garcia just had a very successful Capital Markets webinar “The Game Stop Saga” with SEC Com EPH Amatong. Carol Dominguez often invites to the Harvard Business School webinars. Congratulations to Carol for the “Outstanding Harvard Alumni Leadership Award!”

The last question for Dr. Tommy, what is the secret of his mom,Jessie Lichauco ,109 years old, yes, 109 and still glamorous?He shared her 3 secrets:

  • Love for life and people.
  • Healthy lifestyle. Avoid drinks full of sugar like Colas
  •  Acceptance of things she cannot change. 

The FCC ladies were all fully convinced to have our vaccination.  It’s comforting that all my US based doctor relatives (Aleli Villanueva, Benjie and Heidi Gozon etc already got their vaccines. Even Tessie and Gerry Marcos with underlying health conditions had theirs in Guam.  PNB Vice Chair Rico Alfiler, a Guillain-Barre survivor, is even thinking of going to US to get his vaccination.

So,Vaccination or Covid?  Let us have the vaccination as soon as the vaccines arrive. It’s a no brainer!But let’s still continue with good nutrition to keep our immune system strong and practice washing of hands and social distancing.  Keep safe! 


Flor Gozon Tarriela is chairman of the Philippine National Bank.    She is a former Undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A.  She is a trustee of FINEX and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow.  [email protected]