The pandemic is going into its third year of wreaking havoc around the world. Then the COVID vaccine came out in late 2020 and hope surged. Finally, we have the solution to end the pandemic. While many countries are already out of danger, why are Filipinos still here? Why the hesitation or even hostility towards the vaccine?
Why Get the COVID Vaccine
There are many scientific and medical reasons to get the COVID vaccine. However, the purpose of this article is to state in simplest terms why we need to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Here are the practical reasons.
Benefits of the COVID Vaccine Outweigh the Risks
Every medication, even a natural food supplement, has its side effects. We weigh the pros and cons. For example, we take painkillers to ease the pain and discomfort. It may have side effects, but you get to go to work or perform functions that are hindered because of severe pain.
It is the same with the COVID vaccine, as the benefits of getting it far outweigh the risks.1
Many people are so concerned about the long-term side effects of the COVID vaccine. Plus, there is the issue of natural immunity that a person can get IF he or she survives an infection. But sadly, a big number of them have already passed away due to the complications of COVID-19 before they could even prove the side effects of the vaccine. That’s a sad reality happening around the world.
Dr. Melvin Sanicas,* a vaccinologist from Bacolod who is now based in Zurich, Switzerland, puts it this way:
FACT: Natural infection provides immunity – if you survive – so the next time you encounter the pathogen, you most probably won’t get sick. CAVEAT: Your first encounter with that disease could go very wrong. With COVID19, you could end up very ill, you could end up in the hospital, or you could die. We’re seeing huge rates of hospitalizations and deaths, and you don’t want to risk becoming one of those statistics. Plus, there are other potential complications: You could lose your sense of taste and smell for months OR you could develop long COVID. It’s an unpredictable disease – we don’t know how it’s going to hit different people. DON’T TAKE THE RISK, please! GetVaccinated ASAP! Vaccines save lives. Vaccines work. It’s COVID that kills!
If ever there are side effects to the vaccine, these are usually minor and will go away after a few days. It is also best to prepare one’s self and to have a good vaccination aftercare regimen.
The COVID vaccine is FREE for the Filipino people because the government has spent money acquiring them. At first, we relied on donations from other countries, but eventually, each city and municipality allotted so much of their budget in order to acquire the necessary vaccines to cover their area of jurisdiction.
Easy and Convenient
It is easy to get the vaccine because there are many vaccination sites. There are even scheduled visits to different barangays. Queuing may be necessary in most cases though but that is the most that people have to do.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 is far more painful and deadly and will surely inconvenience the whole family in ways one can never imagine. Even without reaching the point of death, inconveniences of COVID-19 include discrimination among neighbors and friends (even though the family has already tested negative), loss of work, income, and mobility until everyone is cleared, and dealing with government and hospital red tape.
Since vaccine allotment is per city, the local government wants to ensure that their citizens get vaccinated first. Only a valid ID or proof of residence is needed. This is so much easier to comply with than the requirements for hospitalization.
Prevents Severe Effects of COVID infection
On the family level, this is perhaps the most practical reason to get vaccinated. Vaccination largely prevents infection and greatly lowers the chance of getting severe COVID.2 (This does not mean 100% accuracy in prevention because there are also many factors to infection, i.e. complacency, not wearing of protective gear, compromised immunity due to stress, ailment, or lack of sleep, viral load, length of exposure, etc.)
But even if one does get infected with COVID, a patient may not require hospitalization3 and recover faster. It definitely prevents long COVID and significantly lowers the risk of dying.4
Some unvaccinated people do survive but they experience long-term adverse effects on their health.5
COVID Deaths Are So Lonely and Painful
From the time a COVID patient gets picked up by the ambulance until cremation, he or she will not be able to see the family. Goodbyes, if ever, are done through a video call. The patient is alone in the hospital without the emotional support of family and only surrounded by health workers in hazmat suits.
Meanwhile, the family says goodbye in prayer and grieves at home with nobody to hug or hand to hold. There’s not even a last look because, when a COVID patient’s body is placed in a body bag, the remains are considered infectious. The bag will never be opened but will be merely tossed in the crematory and the family just claims the ashes in an urn.
It doesn’t feel like there’s closure because the family doesn’t get to see a dead body. Instead, the grieving family will just feel the heart-wrenching loss because of the absence of the loved one in routine daily activities. The pain can be numbing and family members can become robotic in their actions settling unfinished business of the departed loved one.
For Herd Immunity
The COVID vaccine will eventually achieve herd immunity6 for the whole world. Vaccines shorten the lifespan of the virus in the body and curtail transmissibility. It also prevents further mutation because the virus in a vaccinated person easily weakens. It then has a very low chance of mutating to a stronger strain. However, the ability of the vaccine to prevent transmission is when there are more vaccinated people in the population.
In our situation today, herd immunity is very important because not everyone can get vaccinated. There are those whose immune system does not really work, i.e. the immunocompromised. And then there are those who are not eligible to get vaccinated yet, like the younger kids and some of the elderly.
With herd immunity, we can open up the economy and go back to our normal ways sooner. Restaurants will open to full capacity, malls will no longer have restrictions, border requirements (i.e. days of quarantine and swab tests) will be lifted, and many jobs will be reinstated.
Ease Up the Hospital System
With vaccination, most patients do not require hospitalization anymore and just heal on their own. They no longer have to exhaust the hospital industry and most importantly, they won’t have bills to pay.
Dr. Sanicas further explains:
- OPTION A: With COVID vaccination you are protecting yourself / your family / your community. You are helping to END the pandemic.
- OPTION B: NOT protecting yourself / your family / your community. You are volunteering yourself as an incubator for SARSCoV2 (helping it to mutate further / create variants)
For Your Children
COVID-19 is such a treacherous virus and affects people in different ways. Even the strong population with no co-morbidities succumb to it. It is so sad to see families work hard for their children’s future, only to lose their hard-earned savings and investments for their children to hospitalization bills. And the saddest is if they survive and become unproductive or they don’t survive at all, leaving many children orphaned at a young age, and with debts to pay.
The Layers of Protection Against COVID
At the onset of the pandemic, we were helpless and we plunged into despair, as there was still limited information about it. The basic protection that was required of us was to wear face masks when talking to other people, to stay at home as much as possible, to ramp up our immunity, and to wash hands frequently.
While the common people struggled with community lockdowns, medical experts and scientists from all over the world raced against time in order to develop the COVID vaccine. Different technologies were employed and several nations produced vaccines in order to complete the required dosages that the world needs.
With the vaccination being rolled out across the globe, medical experts still recommend the wearing of face masks and basic protection. The vaccine is the biggest layer of protection we’ve got so that eventually, the human race will be able to live with the SARS-CoV-2 virus like it was the common cold.
There has been so much hesitation to the COVID vaccine. Many people do not trust the science behind it because it was “rushed”, despite the reports and data that back the development. Others put up faith as the reason. Meanwhile, there are many more who are afraid because of the fear-mongering and the fake news on social media. Refer to this link for vaccine facts.
This pandemic has a solution, but many groups are rejecting it and even encouraging others to join them. And now we have many more variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In countries experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, we are witnessing a pandemic of the unvaccinated affecting EVERYONE including the vaccinated vulnerable population, the vaccinated healthcare professionals working in hospitals and medical centers, but most especially those who cannot be vaccinated because of age / certain medical conditions. Do your part in ending the pandemic, please!” Dr. Sanicas urges.
Getting Vaccinated Even After Infection
Natural immunity occurs if a person “survives” a COVID-19 infection. However, the immune system’s defense is still not as strong as one gets from the vaccine.7
There have been many cases of people getting re-infected and not making it after the second time.
Get Vaccinated ASAP
If you aren’t vaccinated yet, please do not hesitate any longer — get vaccinated. There is already tremendous data as well as happenings around us that support the efficacy of the vaccine.8 Protect yourself and your loved ones. Protect the vulnerable in your community.
Get vaccinated with the available vaccine brand in your locale as soon as possible. All vaccines are effective in protecting people against COVID-19 and in preventing infection and mutation. Let’s all heal together.
If you have apprehensions because you have underlying health conditions, or just want to be sure, please seek the recommendation of your attending physician.
About Dr. Melvin Sanicas
Dr. Melvin Sanicas is a vaccinologist and public health physician from Bacolod City, Philippines, with over 10 years of international experience in drug and vaccine development, regulatory affairs, and drug safety. He was a Global Health Fellow and Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he launched the Collaboration for TB Vaccine Discovery and managed a portfolio of over US$ 20M of research and capability building projects in Europe, the US, and Africa.
He earned his bachelor’s degree (cum laude) and M.D. from the University of the Philippines. Higher feathers in his academic cap include:
- Master’s degree in Vaccinology and Pharmaceutical Clinical Development (cum laude) from the Università degli Studi di Siena in Italy
- Master’s degree in Infectious Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
- Postgraduate degrees in health economics, patient safety, and clinical risk management from Aberdeen and Leeds
Dr. Sanicas writes about infectious diseases and global health topics for the World Economic Forum, Project Syndicate, HuffPost, TED-Ed, and a variety of other publications. He is a partner at the Brighton Collaboration, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health.
- 1 – Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits.html
- 2- Gabor David Kelen, M.D. and Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need to Know, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine-what-you-need-to-know
- 3 – Naleway AL, Groom HC, Crawford PM, et al. Incidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection, Emergency Department Visits, and Hospitalizations Because of COVID-19 Among Persons Aged ≥12 Years, by COVID-19 Vaccination Status — Oregon and Washington, July 4–September 25, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1608–1612. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7046a4
- 4 – Bryan Christie, BMJ 2021;375:n2582, https://www.bmj.com/content/375/bmj.n2582
- 5 – Mayo Clinic, COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-term effects, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-long-term-effects/art-20490351
- 7- Elizabeth Pratt, Why You Need to Get Vaccinated Even If You’ve Already Had COVID-19, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-you-need-to-get-vaccinated-even-if-youve-already-had-covid-19
- 8 – What is the Efficacy Rate of Each Available Vaccine?, Department of Health Philippines, https://doh.gov.ph/vaccines/what-is-the-efficacy-rate-of-each-available-vaccine