NTF takes swipe at ex-advisor Leachon: All vaccines are safe vs COVID-19

Published August 29, 2021, 3:24 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The government’s primary task force for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response slammed Dr. Tony Leachon, former government medical advisor and a public health advocate, due to his recent pronouncements about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 (File photo/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, challenged Leachon to clarify his statements on COVID-19 vaccines after the latter supposedly claimed in a Senate hearing on Aug. 27 that only five vaccines — Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen, and Covaxin — are deemed effective against the Delta variant, the more transmissible mutation of the coronavirus.

“Hinahamon ko po ang former government advisor na ito na itama ang kanyang sinabi sa Senate hearing. Ano po ang pinagkaiba natin sa mga nagkakalat ng mga disinformation ukol sa mga bakuna kung tayo mismo ay nagkakalat ng mga iresponsableng pahayag tulad nito? (I challenge the former government advisor to correct what he said in the Senate hearing. How different are we to people spreading disinformation about the vaccines if we, ourselves, are issuing irresponsible statments like this?)” Galvez said in a statement.

The vaccine czar said all vaccines that the government procured have been recommended by the Vaccine Expert Panel, a pool of experts who reviews the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

“While different vaccine types have different efficacy rates against the Delta variant, all of them including Sinovac are working and effective based on real world data,” Galvez noted.

He cited the health conditions of COVID-19 patients admitted at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) as of Aug. 26 who showed that the unvaccinated ones have higher risk of developing severe symptoms.

Out of the 280 adult patients, Galvez said 66 were in critical condition, and 55 of these are unvaccinated. Among the critical cases, 21 were intubated and on life support systems, he said.

“While fully vaccinated individuals can still get infected, none of them are intubated or on life support,” he stressed.

The Department of Health (DOH) issued a similar call to Leachon to clarify his statements during the Senate hearing.

Leachon, in a statement, responded to Galvez and the DOH by saying his statements were “concocted” to “muddle the issue” and “deflect the matter to hide the truths” that were unveiled during the hearing.

“It is not my intention to question the general efficacy of the vaccines against COVID-19, including Sinovac, which is basically 54 percent of all vaccines procured by the government marred by pricing issues investigated by Senate last year,” said Leachon, who resigned as one of the government’s COVID-19 response advisor in June 2020.

“But with the advent of more lethal Delta variant, the government must be forward looking to find ways to secure more of the vaccines which have demonstrated efficacy against the Delta variant based on regulatory documents, published data, and results of clinical trials,” he added.

Currently, there are seven available brands in the country’s COVID-19 vaccine inventory. These are Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen’s Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac’s CoronaVac, Sinopharm, and Sputnik V.

Out of the total 48,885,590 doses that were delivered since February, more than half of the supplies are composed of the Chinese vaccine CoronaVac made by Sinovac with 26.5 million doses.

Meanwhile, there were 8,432,240 doses of AstraZeneca; 4,951,440 doses of Pfizer; 4,296,060 doses of Moderna; 3,240,850 doses of Johnson & Johnson; 1.1 million doses of Sinopharm; and 365,000 doses of Sputnik V.