The arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines in the country signal the beginning of eradicating the infectious disease brought by COVID-19 and a first step to succeeding vaccination nationwide.
Though it was met with controversy and distrust, Sinovac is openly endorsed by the President Rodrigo Duterte himself and the Department of Health (DOH) through Secretary Francisco Duque III. DOH also released a Sinovac primer to the public prior to inoculation day. The primer explained the truth and misconceptions about the controversial vaccine brand from China.
Sinovac-made vaccines arrived in Manila on Sunday as part of China’s commitment to supporting the Philippines’ vaccination rollout.
In a press conference held for the announcement of the rollout of the vaccine, the President told the media that he is considering placing Metro Manila in MGCQ.
“The economy is down and the earlier (rollout) the vaccine and we reached 2 million stocks, I will open the economy,” Duterte said.
“People have to eat. People have to work. People have to pay. And the only way to do it is for the economy and businesses to regroup. Without that, patay talaga. So, mahirapan tayo,” he added.
However, Duterte won’t still allow the opening of face-to-face classes even there’s an available vaccine around. “Huwag muna ngayon. Not now. I cannot make the decision. I cannot place the lives of our children in jeopardy. I’m not yet ready to lose the lives of our young people, of our children,” said Duterte.
In his speech, Duterte thanked the Chinese government for the vaccine donation, confident that more batches of vaccines will be available at the earliest possible opportunity.
“The vaccine that China donated could greatly help in the recovery pf the economy. And it starts (as soon as possible) once we begin the rollout. Slowly, those persons who got the vaccine can go back to work again and businesses will open. It will greatly help and thereby promote a healthy trade and commerce with China,” Duterte further explained.
Who is behind Sinovac vaccine and how does it work?
The Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac is behind the CoronaVac, an inactivated vaccine.
It works by using killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response.
By comparison the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines being developed in the West are mRNA vaccines. This means part of the coronavirus’ genetic code is injected into the body, triggering the body to begin making viral proteins, but not the whole virus, which is enough to train the immune system to attack.
“CoronaVac is a more traditional method [of vaccine] that is successfully used in many well-known vaccines like rabies,” Associate Prof Luo Dahai of the Nanyang Technological University told in an interview.
“mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine and there is [currently] no successful example [of them] being used in the population,” Prof Luo adds.
Several countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and Singapore, have placed orders for the vaccine.
Researchers at the Butantan Institute, which has been conducting the trials in Brazil revealed that Sinovac has been found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials, whileTurkish researchers said the Sinovac vaccine was 91.25% effective. In Indonesia, which recently rolled out its mass vaccination programme, said it was 65.3% effective. Both were interim results from late-stage trials.