Over the past few weeks, there has been so much online discussion about getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. But with several different brands available to the Philippine market, it’s difficult to tell which vaccine is best for Filipinos. Can we afford highly effective vaccines? Are the less familiar brands just as good? Will it protect me from other COVID-19 strains?
In this article, we will look into how these newly developed vaccines lower your risk of contracting COVID-19, and what vaccines will soon be available to us. We will also survey the latest updates on ensuring that we get immunized in the coming months.
Vaccines work by using weakened or inactive parts of a virus to identify it and trigger an immune response within the body. This trains the body to fight the virus if you are later exposed to it. There are four types of COVID-19 vaccines, and each of them is used by at least one of the seven brands that will be available in the Philippines.
- Inactivated virus vaccine, which is used by Sinovac, uses the weakened or killed virus itself as a trigger for immune response.
- Protein-based or sub-unit vaccine, which is applied by Novovax, uses only a sub-unit or part of the virus (i.e., the sike protein) to trigger the immune system.
- Viral vector vaccine, which AstraZeneca and Gamaleya employ, uses a harmless virus to carry the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 in order to trigger an immune response.
- Messenger RNA (mRNA) or DNA vaccine, which Pfizer and Moderna use, is a new technology made up of a molecule containing the genetic material of the virus. The vaccine tricks the body into creating viral spike proteins that, in turn, trigger the immune system.
According to the Department of Health, seven vaccine brands will be procured as part of the country’s vaccination plan:
- AstraZeneca. The British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm, together with Oxford University, has produced a viral vector vaccine with an efficacy of 62 to 90 percent. Two doses are needed. When injected, the vaccine instructs human cells to produce the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—the immune system’s main target in coronaviruses. According to the medical journal The Lancet, fatigue and headache were the most commonly reported systemic reactions in earlier trials. Other reported side effects include mild to moderate pain after vaccination, muscle ache, malaise, chills, and fever.
- Gamaleya. The government-backed Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia uses an adenoviral vector-based platform for its vaccine, with an efficacy of 91.4 percent. Two doses are needed. The technology delivers genetic instructions for SARS-CoV-2 antigens directly into patients’ cells, triggering an immune response. No serious side effects were reported in Phase 3 clinical trials. However, earlier trials saw participants experiencing low-grade fevers.
- Johnson & Johnson. The American medical device and pharmaceutical company has an experimental viral vector vaccine that uses a cold virus to deliver genetic material from the coronavirus into the body. Phase 3 clinical trials are ongoing, and so information about the efficacy and side effects are expected to be released by the end of January. One dose is needed.
- Moderna. This American pharmaceutical company has made an mRNA vaccine with an efficacy of 94.5 percent. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, the most commonly reported side effects, typically lasting several days, are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting, as well as fever. More people experienced the said effects after the second dose than the first dose.
- Novavax. The American vaccine development company has produced a protein-based or sub-unit vaccine. Phase 3 clinical trials are ongoing, and so information about the efficacy and side effects have yet to be released. Two doses are needed.
- Pfizer. This American pharmaceutical giant has made an mRNA vaccine with an efficacy rate of 95 percent in collaboration with German biotechnology company BioNTech. Two doses are needed. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, the most commonly reported side effects, typically lasting several days, are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. More people experienced the said effects after the second dose than the first dose.
- Sinovac. The Chinese biopharmaceutical company has an inactivated virus vaccine with an efficacy of 50 to 78 percent. Two doses are needed. Earlier clinical trials showed pain at the injection site was the most frequently reported symptom. Most of the adverse reactions were solicited and mild in severity.
Getting vaccinated sooner than later
As nations across the world have begun their vaccination drives, the Philippine government is currently in talks with pharmaceutical firms to procure millions of vaccine doses.
At a committee hearing for the House of Representatives on January 18, National Task Force Against COVID-19 and vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. announced that the World Health Organization and Johnson & Johnson will administer a solidarity clinical trial amounting to 15,000 doses in February. Vaccines from Pfizer and Sinovac will arrive within February, while AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines may arrive in March and April. Most of the other vaccines will arrive in Q3 2021.
The government is also in talks with third-party logistics providers and cold chain facilities across the Philippines to ensure that we all have access to a vaccine.
Testing still matters
In times of crisis, it pays to err on the side of caution. As pharmaceutical companies and the national government work together to provide COVID-19 vaccines to as many Filipinos as possible, let us continue to play our critical role in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. If you intend to travel, get tested. If you are showing symptoms, get tested. If you want peace of mind, get tested.
Testing for COVID-19 provides you and local health authorities with the information needed to mitigate the outbreak. With three types of tests (i.e., reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, rapid antibody, and rapid antigen) and a multitude of reputable providers to choose from, getting you and your loved ones tested for the coronavirus has never been more convenient.
- COVID-19 RT PCR Test (Home Service within Metro Manila)
- Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test (Home Service Within Metro Manila)
- Rapid COVID-19 Antibody Test (Home Service Within Metro Manila)
*Featured image by Fernando Zhiminaicela on Pixabay