BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and VICTOR REYES
DR. Gerardo “Gap” Legaspi, director of the Philippine General Hospital and a known neurosurgeon, is the first Filipino to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 in the country.
Like other key government and medical officials, the pioneer of craniotomy surgery in the Philippines said protecting himself and his family and convincing others to trust COVID-19 vaccines procured by government for its mass vaccination program are among the main reasons he decided to get inoculated.
The country yesterday started its COVID-19 vaccination program, with health workers like Legaspi among the first recipients.
In a briefing after the launch of the rollout at the University of the Philippines General Hospital (UP-PGH), Legaspi said he could not describe the feeling after receiving the CoronaVac vaccine from Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech. He said it was a mix of honor to be part of history and a release from all the fears that he had about COVID-19.
He said he did not feel any side effect after he received the vaccine.
He said that prior to the vaccination, he talked to his family about it and because his wife and child are hyper-allergic, he opted to try the CoronaVac first since he is likely to recommend it to them.
He acknowledged that Sinovac is not a popular brand in the country but if one studies its components carefully and considers everything about the vaccine, they would understand why it is safe, he said.
PGH nurse Chareluck Santos administered the shot on Legaspi. She also administered the shot on National task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez.
PGH spokesman Dr. Jonas del Rosario was supposed to be the first to receive the vaccine from Sinovac but he was advised against it after tests showed he still had a high amount of antibodies after recovering from COVID-19 last year.
He lost his parents to the COVID-19 also last year.
At the Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium (Tala), NTF Deputy implementer Vince Dizon said he did not feel any side effect after the jab.
“Ayon sa ating mga eksperto, very, very safe po ang Sinovac vaccine kasama ng ibang mga vaccine. Kaya dapat magtiwala ang ating mga kababayan (According to our experts, Sinovac is very, very safe. Our countrymen should trust the experts), he said.
For Col. Fatima Claire Navarro, commanding officer of the V. Luna Medical Center, it was all about “timeliness.”
Navarro, who was also vaccinated, said the military hospital conducted research study about Sinovac, it being part of the team assigned to inform and educate.
“Ang importante dito is timeliness. Kahit na meron mag-claim na sila ay 100 percent, siguro naman wala sila dito, at di tayo mabigyan ng proteksyon (What’s important is timeliness. While some are claiming they are 100 percent effective, they are not here and can’t give us protection),” she said.
Navarro said she would recommend the Sinovac vaccine to family members. She stressed Sinovac and other vaccine brands would be of great help to end hospitalization and deaths.
Navarro said she did not feel any pain or anything unusual when she was inoculated.
PNP Health Service chief Brig. Gen. Luisito Magnaye, who was among the first three PNP health workers to be vaccinated, said he also did not feel anything or unusual during and after his vaccination.
Magnaye said he took the Sinovac vaccine because it was the first to arrive the country. He said he believes all vaccines are effective.
Two workers of the Veterans Memorial Medical center exhibited mild allergic reaction after being inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine.
VMMC director Dominador Chiong said the mild reaction, in the form of rashes, were immediately addressed. He said the two are now alright.
Chiong belied reports that three recipients of the vaccine became dizzy after the vaccination. He said the three had high blood pressure and they probably got nervous.
May-Ann Bausa, a nurse at the Lung Center of the Philippines, said she agreed to be inoculated with Sinovac since it is the only one available in the country.
“AstraZeneca is not yet available. I’ll just take whatever vaccine is available,” said Bausa. – With Gerard Naval