More US-made vaccines coming

by Ambassador B. Romualdez

“IAEA COVID-19 Package” by IAEA Imageban via Creative Commons/Flickr

The other day, I spoke to Secretary Charlie Galvez, and we were both pleased that some 10 to 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will be arriving in Manila in the coming weeks.

However, Moderna has been experiencing some difficulties lately in delivery schedules. The bulk of the 20 million Moderna doses we ordered should be arriving in the fourth quarter as the allocation for the Philippines has been increased. We are working closely with them in coordination with the US government to ensure our supply of vaccines comes sooner than later.

The upcoming deliveries of these US-made vaccines, along with those from other manufacturers, will help bump up our vaccination program, which is steadily gaining traction – with an average of 3 million jabs per week. Thirty-nine million vaccine doses have been administered, with 22 million Filipinos receiving at least one dose; fully vaccinated are 17 million. Metro Manila has fully vaccinated over 62 percent of the target population.

The WHO and scientists had warned that the coronavirus would eventually become endemic. They say it will become a constant presence and may never go away, much like the cold virus. A continuing concern is that the coronavirus, like most viruses, can constantly mutate, with some strains having more “immune evasion” characteristics. Like the Delta, it has a variant that has driven new surges in many parts of the world as is it is more transmissible than the original strain. Several studies also show that the protection afforded by vaccines may become less effective against the Delta variant over time, making people vulnerable to “breakthrough infections.”

“But the good news is that mRNA (messenger RNA) technology has revolutionized how they make vaccines. I spoke with our pharmaceutical industry friends, who said mRNA is a “game changing” platform.”

But the good news is that mRNA (messenger RNA) technology has revolutionized how they make vaccines. I spoke with our pharmaceutical industry friends, who said mRNA is a “game changing” platform. It opens up the possibility of a single vaccine protecting against several diseases and has proven highly effective against the coronavirus.

One great advantage of mRNA over traditional methods is the speed of production and turnaround time. The vaccine can be “ready within weeks of the identification of the genome of the target pathogen and synthesized in the laboratory in minutes, a desirable characteristic during an outbreak of a communicable disease,” wrote Rutgers University clinical professor Mary Barna Bridgeman.

Aside from COVID-19 vaccines, mRNA shows promise in developing therapies and vaccines for other diseases like malaria, flu, Zika, rabies, and especially cancer, with most cancer vaccine clinical trials targeting melanoma and kidney cancers.

According to a market study published by Global Industry Analysts involving 96 companies engaged in mRNA technology from various parts of the world, “mRNA based COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer stand out as frontrunners.” They cite the speed and the efficacy (95 percent) these vaccines demonstrated in eliciting an immune response against the coronavirus during clinical trials.

“The fact is, we have to accept the reality that COVID-19 will be around for a long time. And with the coronavirus becoming endemic, the fastest way we can go back to a “normal” way of life is through vaccination.”

There are concerns about vaccine-induced protection waning after some time. Also, that the emergence of new variants could “evade protection” or become “vaccine-resistant.” Both Pfizer and Moderna have said they could quickly develop a booster to combat new variants. With mRNA technology, they can speedily tweak a current vaccine to target a new strain – much like how cellphone models are upgraded with software downloads to respond to users’ emerging changes and needs.

Pfizer CEO Alfred Bourla had confidently stated that within 95 days after identifying a “variant of concern,” they could develop a vaccine that is “tailor-made” against the variant. Moderna is also speeding up, creating a single-dose combination booster that can protect against COVID-19 and flu.

The fact is, we have to accept the reality that COVID-19 will be around for a long time. And with the coronavirus becoming endemic, the fastest way we can go back to a “normal” way of life is through vaccination.

France, for instance, is resorting to “Macronian” measures in rolling out its vaccination program, requiring health care workers and carers to get fully vaccinated or face losing their jobs. President Macron imposed a “vaccine passport” requirement before people can dine in restaurants, visit theaters, or board trains, planes, or buses. If they are not vaccinated, they have to show a recent negative COVID-19 test which they have to pay for on their own.

These Macronian measures work because people scrambled to get vaccinated, with 83 percent of the population above 12 receiving at least one dose. The number of protesters is also waning, with infections, ICU hospitalizations, and deaths dropping significantly. Great Britain and Spain are almost entirely back to normal, with mask-wearing as optional. What we see in most of these countries is what we will see once we achieve herd immunity. Just a bit more patience, and we will get there.

“The Philippines will reach its herd immunity target early next year. The private sector will roll out vaccination programs to bring people back to work and speed up its economic recovery.”

President Biden is calling for a virtual vaccine summit, urging nations to donate additional vaccine doses worldwide. World leaders should consider doing so to speedily vaccinate 70 percent of the global population within a year.

The Philippines will reach its herd immunity target early next year. The private sector will roll out vaccination programs to bring people back to work and speed up its economic recovery.

Our continuing effort to get an ample supply of vaccines and move as fast as possible in vaccinating our people will soon bear fruit. As they say in Tagalog, May katapusan rin ‘yan.

Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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