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Your COVID-19 Vaccination Questions So Far, Answered

Do they work or don't they? Who is eligible for a vaccine? Most importantly, what are the Philippine government's plans for Filipinos?

Over 173 million COVID vaccinations have been administered in the world as of Sunday, February 14.


It's the most massive mass vaccination initiative the world has ever seen in history and countries like Israel, the United Arab Emirates, followed by the US and the UK, Chile, the EU, India, Brazil, and China are leading the race to inoculate their populations in order to protect them from the deadly novel coronavirus. 


These early gauges of vaccination success rates, however, have been marred by new developments; new COVID-19 variants from the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and even California have emerged over the last few weeks that were deemed more contagious and potentially more dangerous, whereas the vaccines themselves may not be fully effective against these new strains and can also cause unforeseen side effects.


The COVID vaccine is a tricky business, really, and many people—Filipinos included—are asking themselves if getting vaccinated given all these complications is truly the smartest thing to do.


It's definitely a concern we share with the Filipino public (and likely the rest of the world), and so we answer the most commonly asked COVID vaccine questions below. 


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What's the real deal with the vaccine? Is it safe at all? 

The first thing to know you should know by heart are the three leading COVID vaccine providers: Moderna (a US company), Pfizer-BioNTech (a US-German partnership), and Oxford-AstraZeneca (a British-Swedish pharma). There are many more vaccines being rolled out by other manufacturers in China, Russia, and India to name a few, but the reason why those three companies have gained the upper hand in  is because of the meticulous clinical trials their products went through before rolling them out for public use. 


In simple words, clinical trials (whose importance we talked about here) have helped guarantee the safety of use of a vaccine in the general population, accounting for side effects, contradictions, and any other harmful consequences that fast tracked medical research can discover. Note that, of course, like any other drug, this "guarantee" is not a hundred percent accurate. There may be side effects that did not emerge, and were therefore unstudied, during testing but may appear when more and more individuals with different health histories and underlying conditions are vaccinated. 


So the answer to this question is essentially a yes and no.


Yes, vaccines are relatively safe—provided that you get them from manufacturers that have adhered to international vaccine standards without miss. (A handful of companies besides the three mentioned above have pending approvals). 


On the other hand, the possibility that a vaccines is unsafe could increase if you get them from companies that sped through clinical trials or worse, didn't complete them at all. Practice due diligence and find out where your shots are coming from. 


And finally, to make the COVID vaccine feel less like a gamble, perhaps one should do their own research, too. A number of credible online references (read: credible being official health, university, and government websites) have noted cases where vaccines have caused atypical side effects with some detailing the health profiles/medical conditions of affected individuals. If you feel even the least bit of suspicion that your own medical background puts you at risk for the vaccine's more extreme side effects, do consult with your doctor. 


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What are these side effects, exactly? 

This is likely the most Googled vaccine-related topic there is, and for good reason. Vaccine side effects are (hopefully) just uncomfortable arm soreness, but in rare and unfortunate cases, they can cause irreparable damage.


We'll cut to the chase here. Here are the common side effects to expect after getting the shot: 

  • Tenderness at the injection site
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Slight fever
  • Chills
  • Tiredness 


You'll notice that these side effects are not unique to the COVID vaccine, but rather, they're what's often experienced by most people after getting most vaccines. There are, however, a handful of side effects that have been recorded and worth taking note of. 

         -  Trouble breathing

          - Swelling of the face and throat

          - Rashes

          - Low blood pressure

  • Temporary weakening of facial muscles


A number of individuals have also died after receiving the vaccine, however, and this is a big but, there is yet no reason to believe that their deaths were directly caused by the vaccine. They may have died after getting the shot—and that's true in a chronological sense of events—but research on whether or not these people had existing health conditions that were the real causes of death is still underway. 

 

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Who is eligible for the vaccine? 

Almost the whole population is, with the exception of children. Research on whether or not kids can be vaccinated with the drug in its current form is still ongoing. Anyone 18 and up, however, can get the shot, be protected from the dangerous disease, and protect others while they're at it.  (Others argue that 16 is the cutoff age, so it's best to again consult with your doctor about this, too). 


Aside from children, a study cited here notes that immunocompromised individuals (i.e.: those with pre-existing conditions that affect their immune systems) may not be as receptive to the vaccine, and those who have experienced anaphylaxis as a vaccine side effect should also steer clear. 


 More so, pregnant and breastfeeding women, individuals on anti-coagulant medication, as well as those experiencing COVID symptoms or suspect that they may be infected should delay their vaccination and first discuss their eligibility with their doctors. 


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Lastly, what are the Philippine government's plans for mass vaccination for Filipinos? 

Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines have been approved for emergency use in the country.


"Emergency use," as defined by the FDA, means that it can "allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when certain statutory criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives." 


Moderna may soon make its way to the country, whereas drugs from India and China have also been acquired.


It has yet to be announced how the different vaccine brands will be divided among the population, and which areas will get the first vaccines, and who will be prioritized (perhaps front liners will). Rolling out vaccines to the public is initially scheduled for mid-2021. 


Images from Unsplash