'Unfounded, baseless': Galvez lashes at epidemiologist over 'missed vaccine remark

Published June 5, 2021, 1:09 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. has lashed at a doctor who said that around one million Filipinos have missed their second dose of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, saying such claim was “unfounded” and “baseless.”

An airport employee receives a coronavirus vaccine shot during the vaccination rollout at the Manila airport on June 2, 2021. (Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

Galvez, vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, refuted the claim made by Dr. John Wong that around one million vaccinees who got their first dose, particulalry the CoronaVac jab of Chinese manufacturer Sinovac Biotech and Sputnik V vaccine from Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, have yet to receive their second dose.

“What is worrisome and questionable is that this medical expert, who is claiming this unverified figure, is not a member of NVOC [National Vaccine Operations Center] and, thus, has no true and holistic picture of the government’s vaccine deployment efforts. What he disclosed are mere conjectures and assumptions of his theory, and are not supported by accurate data since he is not grounded and exposed to field operations,” Galvez said in a statement on Friday night.

In a forum last Wednesday, June 2, Wong, an epidemiologist and a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF)’s subtechnical working group on data analytics, said around 2.1 million individuals who already received their first dose “should have come back by now for their second dose.” He noted that only 50 percent or abour one million have since returned for the second dose.

But citing records from the NVOC, Galvez said only nine percent or roughly 113,000 vaccine recipients have missed their second dose.

Galvez said roughly 2.5 million of the 5.5 million Sinovac doses were already administered as second dose or “complete dose.”

Since Sinovac is a two-dose jab, it means that around 1.250 million individuals have been fully vaccinated while the remaining doses “are still being completed in June,” Galvez explained. The two doses are administered 21 days apart.

Meanwhile, the country received the first tranche of 30,000 doses of Sputnik V jabs on May 1 (15,000 doses) and May 12 (15,000 doses), respectively. All of these vaccines were fully administered as first dose in May, with the second dose to be given after 21 days.

The second tranche of Sputnik V vaccines consisted of 50,000 doses were delivered on May 30. Some of these vaccines will be used for first dose while the others will be utilized as second dose which will start in the third week of June, Galvez said.

Further, Galvez said the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines composed of about 525,000 doses that arrived on March 1 to 7 were all administered within the same month as first dose.

The vaccine czar said the second doses were taken from the two million AstraZeneca jabs that arrived on May 8.燞e said AstraZeneca has a long spacing of eight to 12 weeks that is why the inoculation for the second dose has just started this June.

Also, half of the initial 193,050 Pfizer doses that arrived on May 10 have already been administered as first dose, Galvez said. The second dose was scheduled to be dispensed this June as the recommended interval for the American vaccine is 21 days.

“These numbers clearly show that the claim made by the health expert that more than one million Filipinos missed their second dose is therefore unfounded and baseless,” Galvez said.

‘Valid reasons’

Galvez said that the nine percent of vaccine recipients who failed to get their second dose “have valid reasons.”

Citing the NVOC and accounts from local chief executives, Galvez said among these reasons include the vaccinees being exposed to a COVID-19 patient so they needed to be isolated or had to undergo quarantine.

Some vaccinees were also inoculated with other jabs such as those for the flu virus while others were not administered the shot due to medical issues which arose at the vaccination site, Galvez added.

“Contrary to what others may think, we believe that those who received their first shot will come back to get their second shot and complete their vaccination,” he stressed.