After months of waiting, the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines has finally arrived in the Philippines. The vaccine, called CoronaVac, was developed by Sinovac Biotech and was donated by the government of China to the country.
According to reports, the CoronaVac has a significantly lower efficacy compared to others like the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines. And with its 50.4% efficacy in the late-stage trials, many Filipinos, healthcare workers included, were quick to oppose the vaccine and express their willingness to wait for a vaccine that has a higher efficacy. (Read: How Effective is China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 Vaccine?)
In order to raise the public’s confidence in getting vaccinated against COVID-19, various ceremonial vaccinations were held in different parts of Metro Manila. Doctors and public figures took the lead in what seemed to be a highly televised and publicized vaccination campaign— here are some of them!
First in the Philippines: Dr. Gerardo Legaspi
Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, known to patients and colleagues as Doc Gap, received the very first vaccine in the entire country. Doc Gap is an awarded neurosurgeon— the trailblazer of awake craniotomy surgery in the country— and the Philippine General Hospital’s (PGH) director. He was given the first dose by Nurse Chareluck Santos, who herself got vaccinated on the same day as Legaspi.
“Hindi ko ma-describe ang feeling. It’s probably released from all the fears… The honor is there,” Doc Gap said. Nurse Chareluck added that she decided to get vaccinated after doing research about it saying, “I believe that the best vaccine is kung ano na yung available ngayon.”
First in Manila City: Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna
Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna received the first vaccine in the Philippines’s capital city today, March 2. The vaccination program in the city, which started at 6 AM, kicked off by giving the second-termer vice mayor her first dose of the CoronaVac. (Read: Popes Francis, Benedict XVI Receive First Dose of COVID Vaccine)
According to Vice Mayor Lacuna, it’s not because she is a politician that she received it first, but because she is a frontliner as well. The vice mayor is a licensed physician first before she became a politician in 2016.
First in Pasig City: Dr. Nerissa Sabarre
COVID-19 Referral Center Hospital Incident Commander Dr. Nerissa Sabarre of the Pasig City Children’s Hospital was the first in the city to receive the shot. In a video from the ceremonial vaccination, Dr. Sabarre was heard to be saying ‘bakuna ng pag-asa’ while being injected with the first dose.
Their city’s chief, Mayor Vico Sotto, said that they will begin with vaccinating at least 100 healthcare workers from their city’s hospitals, and hope that more frontliners are encouraged to get vaccinated, too. He also emphasized that there shouldn’t be any judgment against those who decided to put off getting vaccinated because of hesitations with the currently available vaccine. (Read: Mayor Vico Sotto Named Anticorruption Champion by US State Department)