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Health workers protest outside Lung Center for ‘most efficacious’ vaccine

Employees of the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City and other health workers held a protest demanding a free, safe and "most efficacious" COVID-19 vaccine outside the hospital on Monday, while Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was administering doses of the Sinovac vaccine to some of their colleagues.

“Ang panawagan namin, bigyan kami ng tamang vaccine o kaya ‘yong vaccine na walang halong pagdududa na ‘yong sigurado ‘yong buhay namin hindi malalagay sa alanganin,” LCP Employees Union president Eleazar Sobingsky said in Chino Gaston’s report on “24 Oras.” 

Many health workers have shown skepticism towards the Sinovac jab, which was given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration last week, with the caveat that it was not recommended for health workers.

“The use of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine on health care workers is not recommended as it has an efficacy rate of 50.4% in this group,” FDA director general Dr. Eric Domingo said, though he later added that health workers who choose to be vaccinated with Sinovac may do so.

The Alliance of Health Workers also joined the protest.

“Hindi katanggap-tanggap sa health workers itong vaccine na ‘to dahil wala nga siyang record for sa trials. Kailangan talagang manindigan tayo na itong vaccine na ‘to ay ligtas sa mga health workers. What if magkaroon ng adverse side effects itong vaccine na ‘to, sino na mangngalaga sa ating mga pasyente?” Alliance of Health Workers president Robert Mendoza said.

LCP executive director Dr. Vincent Balanag said they are not forcing their employees to get the Sinovac jab.

“We expect na may hesitancy especially na mayroong supposedly alternative ‘yong AstraZeneca kaya nga in-explain namin na between the two, talagang may mga advantages ‘yong Sinovac at nandito na,” Balanag said.

A total of 150 LCP employees out of 1,400 were given the Sinovac shot on Monday.

No adverse side effects among the health workers were reported.

Earlier, PGH doctors said Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine should undergo further appraisal before being administered to healthcare workers.

According to the PGH Physicians Association, the appraisal should be done by the Health Technology Assessment Council, an advisory body to the Health Department and PhilHealth, to facilitate informed decision-making.

Although the Chinese vaccine was granted emergency use authorization by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration, it was not recommended for healthcare workers due to its lower efficacy rate of 50.4 percent for the group.

Despite this, the Department of Health said the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group agreed to recommend Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine for health workers.

On Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte said health workers who do not want to take the Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine should wait for a few days to get inoculated.

“Mayroong dadating. They have a choice. It’s either AstraZeneca or the Sinovac. Kung ayaw nila ng Sinovac, maghintay sila in a few days. Basta I was assured it will be coming within the next few days,” Duterte said in a press conference.

“For those who do not want to be vaccinated, okay lang sa akin. Wala akong problema. Ayaw ninyo magpabakuna, okay, that’s your choice,” he added. — Ma. Angelica Garcia/BM, GMA News