Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III received his first dose of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine on Friday, April 23.
Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo administered the China’s Sinovac vaccine to Duque at the DOH Gymnasium, according to the livestream of state-run People’s Television Network (PTV-4).
Following his inoculation, Duque underscored that vaccines are safe and effective.
“As I receive my dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today, I invite everyone to do the same, and choose to be protected,” Duque said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Duque, 64, received his first jab of the CoronaVac vaccine as part of the Priority Group A2 or senior citizens.
This was after the Health chief deferred getting the vaccine, saying that he would follow the prioritization framework.
On April 7, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Sinovac vaccines on persons 60 years old and above.
The DOH and the FDA, meantime, assured the public that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in preventing hospitalization and deaths from the disease, and that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh its risks.
But as the Philippines rolls out the National Vaccine Deployment Program (NVDP) to cover more individuals under the identified priority groups, local incidents of adverse events after vaccination have also been reported.
During the regular Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) presser, the DOH and FDA reported that as of April 10—with the country as of said date having vaccinated 1 million individuals—almost all cases of AEFI were vaccinees who experienced very mild side effects, and only 1.5 percent of the total AEFIs were serious.
Additionally, the DOH and FDA reported that all reported serious AEFIs were later found to be coincidental and totally unrelated to the vaccine after careful and thorough causality assessment conducted by the National AEFI Council (NAEFIC)—an indepndenr expert body organized to investigate reports of AEFI.
“From the start of our vaccination period to April 10, only 1.5 percent of the total AEFIs were serious cases. This means that for every 1,000,000 vaccinated, less than 0.04 percent may experience serious AEFI cases. But it does not necessarily mean that the vaccine causes the events. This risk is much lower than the fatality of the COVID-19 infection in our country which has a 1.69 percent fatality rate,” FDA Director General Rolando Enrique Domingo said.
The DOH and FDA also assured that common side effects of vaccines such as headache, fever, pain in the injection site, malaise, fatigue, muscle pain, and increased blood pressure are normal signs that one’s body is developing protection against COVID-19.
The agencies likewise guaranteed that all reported adverse events were properly attended to, and reiterated that comprehensive screening prior to vaccination and sufficient monitoring after, are all in place to ensure total minimization of the risk of side effects, despite the risk already being extremely minimal.
“Part of the preparations that the DOH and the entire vaccine cluster put in place during our preparations was making sure that any adverse event will be monitored and managed sufficiently. All vaccination sites have holding stations where vaccinated individuals are closely monitored for any adverse reaction to the vaccine. The government also set up an indemnification fund to ensure the welfare of patients who will experience serious adverse events,” said Duque.