Two cops experienced Sinovac side effects

Two cops experienced Sinovac side effects | Juan Manila


MANILA — Two members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have experienced adverse side effects after they were inoculated with Sinovac vaccines last Monday.

According to PNP deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, one of the patients had rashes on his shoulder where the jab was administered. “The other felt dizzy because of inadequate sleep, but it disappeared quickly.” They have not shown any other symptoms and are adjusting well to the vaccines.

The two PNP members were among 125 PNP personnel of 113 police officers and 12 civilian employees who received the vaccines last Monday.

A total of 804 PNP members are included in the list of recipients for the vaccines. The number of police personnel that have contracted COVID-19 reached 11,372 since last year with 31 fatalities. The number of recoveries is 10,897 or 95.82 percent. Meanwhile, total of 444 are regaining strength in hospitals or quarantine facilities. (JSM/JuanManila)

Featured image: First two cops to be administered the Sinovac CoronaVac anti-COVID-19 doses experienced adverse effects after taking the first dose of the vaccine.

Returning OFW tests positive in Cebu

Returning OFW tests positive in Cebu | Covid-19 | Juan Manila


CEBU CITY — Another returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) has tested positive for Covid-19 despite having been vaccinated in Canada, according to a radio report in Cebu.

Citing Dr. Mary Jean Loreche of Department of Health in Central Visayas, the report said the patient who tested Covid-19 positive is a female, aged 25 years, who arrived from Montreal, Canada.

Loreche said the patient received the vaccine developed by Pfizer on January 13 and arrived in Cebu on February 9, where she underwent the subscribed quarantine protocols and then swabbed on 14 February.

However, instead of registering negative, the woman was found to be positive of the virus.

This is the second case of an OFW testing positive for Covid-19 despite getting inoculated abroad, the first one being an OFW from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who returned home last 25 January.

Loreche had earlier said it remains to be proven if the Covid-19 vaccines developed by several international pharmaceutical firms can actually prevent transmission or infection.

Sa mga datos ng mga bakuna natin . . . it can prevent severe disease, it can prevent clinical disease. Pero to prevent transmission, hindi po clear cut ‘yan kaya hindi po natin masasabi na ikaw, kung nabakunahan ka, hindi ka na makakahawa,” she said.

Meanwhile, a ranking health official who requested anonymity said in an earlier report that vaccines against the virus are not guaranteed to shield anyone from getting the disease but it can ensure the said individual will not have severe symptoms, unlike people who did not receive any jab at all. (JSM/JuanManila)

Warning against ‘fake’ Covid-19 vaccines out

Warning against 'fake' Covid vaccines out

MANILA — House Deputy Speaker and Valenzuela representative Weslie Gatchalian has issued a warning to the public about “an influx of unscrupulous individuals selling unregistered or, worse, fake vaccines” with the expected arrival of Covid-19 vaccines before the end of the month.

“We call on all cybercrime agencies of the Government to be on the lookout for illegal and unregistered Covid-19 vaccines and pool their resources to apprehend opportunists who prey on the public,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

Meanwhile, doctors from the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19 (HPAAC) appealed to the citizenry to stay with the national Government’s priority list, which has health workers, the elderly, and people with co-morbidities at the top.

Private companies are most likely to fall on the bottom tier or with the rest of the population, even if a private initiative has secured 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through private donors and local governments (LGUs).

Half of this supply shall go to the national Government for its distribution.

HPAAC’s Dr. Aileen Espina called on the public to watch out for people who would jump the line to get shots.

“It is our duty and our responsibility to call out anyone who is cutting the line, to call out anyone who is not following the prioritization program of the Government,” Espina said.

The vaccination program must be done according to the need and not the “capacity to pay” to ensure equitable distribution, HPAAC said.

Health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire added that the Government’s priority list would be strictly followed.

“Nobody can jump the line because it is the national government that will give the authority if you can receive your doses already. We will inoculate first the priority sectors of the population,” Vergeire said in conclusion.

Amidst the rush for the expected vaccine rollout, before the month ends, government authorities are warning against illegally sourced or counterfeit drugs that may be sold to the public by unscrupulous groups or individuals who want to take advantage of the situation.

HPAAC’s Dr. Antonio Dans cautioned people that the sale of Covid-19 vaccines outside the Government inoculation program feeds on the fear of not enough supplies arriving.

The illegal sale of vaccines has recently emerged in online chat groups, workplaces, and even in neighborhoods across Metro Manila, paving the way for the market to be flooded with counterfeit vaccines that could be more hazardous than beneficial to those who will be inoculated with them.

 “I’ve had patients asking me if they should already buy (a vaccine),” Dans disclosed in an online conference.

The talk of vaccines already available raises the question of where these vaccines come from as they are being sold at an average of PhP1,000 without indication if this is per dose or per treatment.

HPAAC, which groups more than 160 health organizations, said this constituted a ‘black market’ or a scam since not a single vaccine had been registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for marketing or commercial distribution. (▪JSM/JuanManila)

Ventilation policy sets off to lower risk of COVID infection

DOLE ventilation policy

 “The policy on ventilation for workplaces is in the pipeline to ensure that air is clean and lower the risk of COVID infection. If there’s proper ventilation, even if one is sick, there will be no transmission,” says Labor Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresita Cucueco.

The department will be issuing the new policy to ensure the safety and protection of workers from CoViD-19 and prevent virus transmission in malls, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial establishments.

Of the 70,000 establishments already inspected, 90 percent complied with the guidelines. Companies that fail to comply will face penalties ranging from ₱20,000 to ₱100,000 per day.

Financial aid hits completion

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello affirms that the agency is almost done distributing over ₱11 billion worth of financial assistance to 2,080,828 workers affected by the pandemic.

“We are almost through with TUPAD and CAMP,” says Bello. These are financial assistance programs funded under the Bayanihan 2 Law: TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers), CAMP (COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program), and the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers, Barangay Ko Bahay Ko (TUPAD #BKBK).

Cash assistance to overseas Filipino workers under the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) is also nearing completion with cash distribution amounting to ₱1.19 billion covering 118,416 displaced OFWs. “We are already accelerating the payout for our OFW beneficiaries,” Bello added.

DOLE initiated CAMP and TUPAD as part of government efforts to help soften the economic impact of the pandemic on low-income workers.

PSG chief claims ‘no conflict of interest, no public funds used’ in secret vaccination

The commander of President Rodrigo Duterte’s security detail, who was recently revealed to have been among the first ones to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the country, insists that the secret inoculation was done without conflict of interest, adding that they also didn’t use public funds for the procurement of the unregistered vaccines.

Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III said that they were the ones who asked and requested for the vaccines when asked about why there were doses given to the PSG for free.

Durante didn’t give concrete details on where the vaccines were from, only saying that “it could be a person, it could be a state.”

He added that the PSG believed that it’s “necessary” to get a “weapon” such as the vaccine during the pandemic, saying that conflict of interest is out of the picture as “there were no deals involved or any favors involved.”

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, explained that while the COVID-19 vaccines used on members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PSG were smuggled, what they did can be “justified.”

“Yes, it’s smuggled. Kasi hindi authorized na pumasok dito. Only the government can authorize that through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” said Lorenzana.

“Explain lang talaga ng PSG kung bakit nila ginawa ‘yon. Justified naman eh. Anyway ‘yong vaccine naman ay hindi fake. Totoo naman,” the defense chief added.

Netizens have been airing their dismay about what they deem as a “criminal” move by the AFP and the PSG especially since the government has committed to prioritize healthworkers in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination.

Some Filipinos remain baffled about how the authorities seem to be reluctant in giving out details on what really happened in the secret vaccination which health experts have noted can undermine the immunization efforts of the Philippines.

Duque gives PH’s pandemic response near-perfect score for great effort

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III gave his agency an almost perfect score for its “great effort and sincerity” in driving the Philippines’ COVID-19 response.

“I would give them nine to 10… saludo po ako sa mga taga-Department of Health, lalong-lalo na sa ating mga doctor, mga nurses, mga lab technicians. Lahat po ng mga iyan sa bawat ospital ng DOH ay talaga pong sila ay nagbuwis ng kanilang mga buhay, at walang katumbas ang kanilang sakripisyo,” said Duque.

The secretary explained that while the DOH has “missteps” in handling the health crisis in the country, the shortcomings can’t be avoided because it’s a virus the Philippines is dealing with.

“Wala naman pong hindi nagkakamali lalo na ang pinaguuusapan ay bagong virus … Wala pong magaling sa COVID-19,” he added.

Duque has been involved in various controversies amid the COVID-19 situation in the country, notable of which are the repeated calls from lawmakers, health experts, and ordinary citizens for him to leave his position as the health chief due to his alleged incompetence and negligence.

The DOH secretary was among those who were against the imposition of an early travel ban on China in January, a crucial factor that resulted in the continued transmission of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

Duque was also among the high-ranking officials tagged in the widespread corruption in the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). Officials recently bared that it was him who should be blamed for the botched COVID-19 vaccine deal of the Philippines with US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer.

Déjà vu? Government’s inconsistent travel ban advisories cause confusion among Pinoys anew

Filipinos would think that after all the months that passed during which the country had to endure the challenges and adjustments brought about by the pandemic, the government, at the very least, will not repeat previous incidents of miscommunication.

But with government agencies again issuing different advisories and contradicting each other on the decision whether to impose a travel ban on countries where a new COVID-19 virus strain was detected, it’s like the same situation 11 months ago in the Philippines.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) initially announced on its social media account a travel ban on 19 countries, in addition to the United Kingdom, following the threat of the new coronavirus strain.

MIAA’s advisory, however, was retracted and later deleted on Facebook after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that a travel ban is yet to be decided.

“If you ask me, is there currently a travel ban? My answer is no. Will there be? Perhaps. Anong detalye? Let’s wait for it,” Roque said in a virtual briefing aired over state-run PTV.

Prior to Roque’s statement, apart from the MIAA, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) also separately said that travelers from 20 countries will not be allowed entry to the country from December 29 to January 15.

With these conflicting announcements, many Filipinos, particularly netizens, can’t help but be disappointed yet again on how the government can afford to have confusing statements on an issue as big as something that can risk public health, especially with the continuous rising of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Social media users also brought back the discussion on how the Duterte administration previously rejected calls by lawmakers and health experts to issue a travel ban on China during the early stages of the pandemic back in January.

After communication lapses, the government finally imposed a travel ban on countries with cases of new COVID-19 strain until January 15, 2021. These include the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, Hong Kong SAR, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, and Spain.

Health experts urge FDA to demand accountability over unauthorized vaccinations

Experts are calling for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to hold people accountable over the unauthorized administration of the unregistered Sinopharm vaccine to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Presidential Security Group (PSG), emphasizing that this might have an effect in the vaccination efforts of the Philippines.

But reprimanding those involved seems to be unlikely especially since the Palace itself has been defending the secret vaccinations.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque tried to justify the said move addressing concerns that administering unregistered COVID-19 vaccines to Duterte’s security detail is a violation of the Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which bans government officials from receiving gifts “directly or indirectly” from private people and entities.

Roque explained that the COVID-19 vaccines given to the PSG are considered as “tokens” and are donations of little value.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Benjamin Co said that the government failing to issue due reprimands and punishments to those who are responsible for administering an unregistered COVID-19 vaccine could set a precedent for “other drug distributors, manufacturers, and those who plan to bring any drug into the Philippines.”

“We need to divulge who slipped the vaccines inside the country, how many doses, and how it was done,” Co said. “We have to remember there is one whole process that needs to get evaluated.”

He noted that with the unregulated vaccines, those who were injected can have a “false belief” that they are already protected from the virus, and “it puts clear and present danger on the lives of the president and the families of those who got immunized.”

Co said that while it’s possible that Duterte did not know about the secret immunization, “it was wrong from the get go and it is still wrong in the end.”

Former National Task Force COVID-19 adviser Tony Leachon urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to get involved in the issue since the FDA does not carry enough police powers, adding that the DOJ can order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to help in conducting an investigation.

Leachon said that the unauthorized immunization can be against the Philippine law on counterfeit drugs that prohibits the importation and distribution of unregistered medicines.

VFA threat in exchange for US vaccine ‘lowers dignity of the Philippines’ — Gordon

Some lawmakers expressed their negative reactions to the recent statement of President Rodrigo Duterte in which he threatened the United States to end the Visiting Force Agreement (VFA) it has with the Philippines if the superpower cannot deliver COVID-19 vaccines.

Senator Richard Gordon said that Duterte’s “no vaccine, no VFA” threat upon the US is “inappropriate, mercenary, and lessens the dignity of the Philippines.”

“National interest must be the only consideration for a VFA,” Gordon said on Twitter.

Duterte’s remarks also don’t sit well with Senator Panfilo Lacson who noted that there could be a “more diplomatic” way of asking the US, which is a longtime ally of the Philippines, for help to avail the vaccines “without sounding like we are blackmailing our way into it.”

Lacson added that with the president “treating the Americans like a bunch of yokels,” the Philippines may be left with no choice but to settle with the controversial China-made Sinovac which only has a 50% efficacy rate.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, insisted in a briefing that Duterte’s statements aren’t blackmails but are part of an “independent foreign policy.”

“The president remains as the chief architect of our foreign policy, so we can’t deprive him to make that decision. There is nothing wrong with that… this only shows that we won’t be beholden to or be dictated upon by others,” Roque said in Filipino.

The Palace official also mentioned the previous decision of Duterte to grant pardon to US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton who killed Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude “was not enough” bargaining chip to “secure US doses.”

“Thus, my opinion is the president had to bring out the cancellation of the VFA,” Roque added.

Duterte advised not to get early COVID-19 vaccine

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said that doctors prevented President Rodrigo Duterte from being inoculated with an early dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Año noted that Duterte himself is willing to get the shot but he was advised by his doctors not to do so.

“Talagang ‘di pa siya nagpapabakuna. Ayaw ng mga doktor niya,” the DILG chief said.

Año’s statement came after it was confirmed that some Cabinet officials, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Presidential Security Group (PSG) have been vaccinated against COVID-19, being the first ones to get the shots of an unregistered vaccine in the Philippines.

Amid the ruckus on social media following this, the Palace said that the Filipinos shouldn’t deny the soldiers of protection.

“Huwag niyo naman pong ipagkait sa ating mga sundalo kung nagkaroon sila ng proteksyon. Tanggapin nalang po natin na importante na iyong ating kasundaluhan, iyong mga nagbabantay sa ating seguridad, ay ligtas na sa COVID nang magampanan nila ang kanilang trabaho,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

Health experts have since voiced out cautions against early vaccinations, especially using COVID-19 vaccines from China which the Duterte administration has been favoring over other vaccine choices.

Local medical professionals have likewise aired their concerns about how some COVID-19 vaccines from China are yet to be proven safe and effective, and lack enough trials.