No side effects so far; 579 already vaccinated

None of the 579 frontline health care workers already vaccinated against COVID-19 in Catanduanes have so far developed any side effects, the Department of Health said last weekend.

DOH provincial officer Dr. Robert John Aquino told the Tribune that no case of Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) had been reported to his office as of March 14, 2021.

During a press conference at the Capitol last week, he recounted that his blood pressure rose slightly before the vaccination but he did not feel any side effect other than pain at the injection site after the event.

The vaccination against the coronavirus disease in the island began last Thursday, March 11, following the arrival of 141 vials of AstraZeneca and 280 vials of Sinovac at Virac airport aboard an Aviocar NC212i aircraft of the Philippine Air Force.

Governor Joseph Cua and Virac Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. were among those present to witness the 37 health personnel get jabbed at the vaccination center, with Dr. Aquino, Provincial Health Officer II Dr. Hazel Palmes and Eastern Bicol Medical Center hospital chief Dr. Vietrez Abella first in line.

Of the 37, 30 choose the British vaccine while seven went for the Chinese jab.

As of Sunday, a total of 579 health workers in five public and private hospitals had already been injected with the vaccine from either Sinovac or AstraZeneca, representing 85 percent of the eligible target population of 683.

The figure is broken down as follows: Eastern Bicol Medical Center, 329 out of 393 (84%); Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital, Inc., 70 (100%); Catanduanes Doctors Hospital, Inc., 75 out of 98 (77%)l Juan M. Alberto Memorial District Hospital,, 56 out of 60 (93%); and, Pandan District Hospital, 49 out of 62 (79%).

According to the Department of Health, only 21 serious side effects after vaccinations against COVID-19 have been reported as of March 10.

Out of the 114,615 people who have been inoculated, 978 or only 0.85% experienced suspected adverse events after immunization (AEFI), Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stated.

For those were injected with the China-made Coronavac, 872 experienced minor side effects such as pain on the injection site, body pains, increase in blood pressure, fever and rashes, it was bared.

The DOH also disclosed that 85 recipients of the Brtish-Swedish firm AstraZeneca also had common and non-serious side effects while 21 CoronaVac recipients and one AstraZeneca recipient experienced serious side effects such as difficulty in breathing and chest pain.

Reports claim the AstraZeneca vaccine’s side effects include pain or tenderness at the injection site, headache, tiredness, muscle or joint aches, fever, chills and nausea while those vaccinated with Sinovac only experienced common side effects, such as increase in blood pressure, pain in injection site, rashes, headache, and nausea.

Most of the side effects is due to anxiety prior to vaccination, DOH Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said.

Last week, a 59-year old hospital employee in Oriental Mindoro, who had tested positive for COVID-19 more than 90 days earlier, experienced serious side effects after her first dose of Coronavac.

Five hours after the immunization, the said vaccine recipient experienced hypertension, vomiting, seizure, and unconsciousness, the DOH stated, with the patient regaining consciousness after immediate procedures at the Emergency Room (ER).

Health officials in the Mimaropa region are conducting a case management and investigation to identify the causality between the vaccine and the adverse event, with the Regional AEFI Committee set to assess the incident.

In Catanduanes, the Provincial Health Office expects thousands of vaccine doses to arrive from the DOH Center for Health Development-Bicol intended for frontliners from other health facilities such as district hospitals, rural health units, private health clinics, contact tracers, barangay health workers, Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) and contact tracers in the local government units, and uniformed personnel.

The remainder of the downloaded vaccines now in storage at the PHO cold room are being monitored four times daily to ensure that the required storage temperature is maintained.

Dr. Palmes said that the second dose for first batch of vaccines are already included in the allocation for the province, with the Sinovac to be given 28 days after the first dose and the AstraZeneca injected 56 days later.

On the other hand, Dr. Aquino averred that the vaccination timeline will depend on how many vials will be sent by the regional office but priority will be given to those at high risk.

“Wala pong palakasan dito,” he stressed, adding that the health frontliners will be followed by senior citizens.

If a health care worker does not want to be vaccinated, the health facility concerned has a contingency list of those next to be vaccinated, Aquino stated.

Reiterating the importance of observing health protocols, he reminded the public that those vaccinated already can still get infected by coronavirus but what is 100 percent certain is that they will no longer suffer severe symptoms.

The protection offered by the vaccines against moderate symptoms is 78% and against mild symptoms about 50%, the DOH provincial officer disclosed.

On the possibility that ordinary people will be able to get vaccinated on their own, PHO I Dr. Franchette Amabella Panti said that all COVID-19 vaccines are not available on the market as they have not passed Phase 4 clinical trials.

She opined that among the vaccines available in the country, the Sinovac vaccine is the safest as it uses inactivated or dead virus but there’s still a chance for an allergic reaction.

“For the first two months, those vaccinated will be monitored every other two weeks, then once a month until the 12 months since the first injection have passed,” Dr. Panti clarified.

DOH’s Aquino revealed that virtual and crash course trainings for vaccinators and other composite teams have been held to ensure readiness for vaccine rollouts in other facilities and offices.

He said that for the nation to achieve herd immunity, at least 70 percent of the population will have to be vaccinated, a process that would take at least three years to achieve due to the global scarcity of vaccines that affect the pace of vaccination.

Under the provincial vaccination plan, once the 5,951 frontliners have been vaccinated, next in line would be 19,289 indigent senior citizens, 6,748 remaining senior citizens, 28,625 indigent population, and 1,146 uniformed personnel.

On the possibility that vaccines would be donated to the province, Dr. Palmes said that the vaccines should have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must pass through DOH-CHD Bicol which will give the go-signal for its use.

“All vaccines have lot numbers so their distribution and use is carefully monitored,” she stressed.

Governor Cua said the province might consider the purchase of vaccines for vulnerable citizens but this will be based on the public’s acceptance of the vaccination program.

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