(IN an article published in TheDiarist.ph February 5, 2021, “Vaccine development—from 10 years to 10 months—how did that happen?”, Dr. Mevin Sanicas addressed a concern of many regarding vaccines: “When people say COVID vaccines were rushed, do your part and help stop misinformation, ” he noted.
“COVID vaccines are the ‘moon landing’ of our generation—a triumph of science and technology. Each COVID vaccine is a testament to what can be achieved with resources, lots of funding, science, and thousands of smart people and tens of thousands of study participants who volunteered their time and immune systems to ensure we will be out of this pandemic someday soon.”
His point was that the development of anti-COVID-19 vaccine didn’t happen overnight, contrary to common notion early on in this pandemic.
Dr. Sanicas is a leading figure in COVID-19 discussions worldwide. He earned his medical degree from the University of the Philippines Manila, and pursued postgraduate degrees in Vaccinology and Pharmaceutical Clinical Development (Università di Siena, Italy), Infectious Diseases (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK), Health Economics (University of Aberdeen, UK), Clinical Risk Management (University of Leeds, UK), and public leadership (Harvard Kennedy School, US). He was likewise a Gates Fellow in Global Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington.
Here, he addresses the concerns cropping up now that community vaccination is under way and updates readers on the importance of getting vaccinated.—Editor)
The rationale for getting the vaccine is not to prevent symptoms, but to reduce your chances of serious disease and the risk of hospitalization and death—and all the available vaccines work very well in preventing serious illness. We are seeing this all over the world, where we see that majority of those in the hospital for severe COVID are the unvaccinated.
When enough people in the community are vaccinated, it slows down the spread of disease, but most parts of the world have very low vaccination coverage. Mutation will always happen as long as the virus is circulating in the community. Vaccines not only reduce serious disease, hospitalization, and death, but also reduce the magnitude of the outbreak in the community, so more vaccinated individuals mean controlled/reduced outbreak, less mutations, and less chances for new variants.
Actual percentage of vaccinated people in the Pfizer (and Moderna) trials who got COVID-19 was about a hundred times less than that: 0.04 percent
The public health interventions recommended should all be followed, including the wearing of masks, handwashing, physical distancing, and ventilation because 1) the pandemic is not over, 2) the outbreak is still surging in the Philippines, and 3) the vaccination coverage is very low.
It doesn’t mean 5 percent of vaccinated people get infected. The actual percentage of vaccinated people in the Pfizer (and Moderna) trials who got COVID-19 was about a hundred times less than that: 0.04 percent. What the 95 percent actually means is that vaccinated people had a 95 percent lower risk of getting COVID-19, compared with control group participants who weren’t vaccinated.
The end to this pandemic will depend on people. If everyone follows all the public health recommendations (masking, handwashing, physical distancing, ventilation, avoiding crowds) and are honest about things like exposure and doing isolation/quarantine, and if everyone eligible gets vaccinated, we will see an end soon.
But it’s not happening, and I don’t think there was ever a time when people genuinely listened to science since the start of the pandemic. There was always resistance to any or all of the public health advice. So how can we expect the outbreak to be controlled when we have never been united?
If we truly want the pandemic to be over, we need to get vaccinated and convince our families and friends to be vaccinated, as well. Higher vaccination rates make outbreaks much less likely. They also reduce the need for preventive measures, such as lockdowns. A high vaccine coverage rate will reduce the health, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will help save lives and livelihoods.