A vaccination program

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          The World Health Organization on Tuesday stressed that it is not just the vaccine but the vaccination program that countries will put in place at will ultimately protect and save hundreds of thousands of lives.

          Kate O’Brien, WHO director for immunization, vaccines and biologicals, pointed out that despite the availability to the public of various life-saving and effective vaccines against a host of contagious diseases, such as measles, outbreaks continue to happen.

          “Getting to vaccine efficacy is like building base camp at Everest but the climb to the peak is really about delivering the vaccines and this cannot be overemphasized – that the people who need to receive these vaccines are the ones who really are the focus now as we start to see that we have the vaccines that may in fact really have very strong efficacy,” O’Brien said at a briefing at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

          Over the last few days, US drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have released the preliminary results of their clinical trials showing their vaccines are at least 90 percent effective against COVID-19.

          It has been noted, however, that Pfizer’s vaccine poses challenges to low income countries, such as the Philippines, since it has to be stored in temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius or lower. Moderna’s vaccine, on the other hand, can be kept at standard refrigerator temperatures of between 2 to 8 Celsius.

          This early though, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan sought to temper expectations, pointing out there will be “very, very limited doses” of the candidate vaccines during the first half of 2021. Many of the companies have already entered into bilateral deals that have booked many of the doses.

          As a government whose leadership has been counting on a vaccine as the one-dose-fits-all solution to the COVID-19 pandemic in light of a response that statistics have been found to be woefully inadequate, the Philippines should already be done making preparations to book, purchase, store, distribute, and deliver whatever vaccine becomes available.

          If our government has not already made reservations or deals for the vaccine by now, we may already be too late. If our cold storage and transport facilities are not available, especially since these are not part of police and military camps, government has to work double time with the private sector to ensure that any vaccine that becomes available can be deployed to the Filipino people, who have been led to believe that it is the answer to all our problems.*

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