Expert: Existing vaccines can help body fight vs existing Covid variants


Vaccines against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) have benefits that outweigh the risks and are effective even with existing variants, a vaccine expert said Thursday.

In an online media forum, Dr. Rontgene Solante, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Vaccine Expert Panel member, said there are still few studies on the performance of Covid-19 vaccines against the existing variants conducted in laboratories.

“Among the variants affecting the efficacy of vaccines, number one is the South African variant and then the Brazilian variant and this is reviewed in 34 studies. When the variants were tested and the vaccines were placed, somehow, there’s a decrease in vaccine efficacy,” Solante said.

He explained that decreased vaccine efficacy is not a concern because the body is able to maximize the effect of the vaccine once the two doses are completed.

Apart from producing antibodies, Solante said the vaccine enters many pathways of immune response, which may not be measured through studies in laboratories.

“That’s why even in the actual rollout, some [individuals] develop infections but still many among those who were vaccinated don’t have an infection because there is no perfect vaccine that can provide 100-percent protection,” he added.

Citing the success story of Israel, Solante stressed that decreased efficacy does not mean the vaccine is no longer effective in preventing severe symptoms of Covid-19.

“Their cases significantly dropped because almost 80 percent of the population has been vaccinated and 80 percent of the cases there is B.1.1.7. They have a variant but the Pfizer vaccine still works at 94 percent efficacy,” he said. “We have to trust vaccines because vaccines are still effective even with these new variants”.

Lessons from other countries

While vaccination is important in preventing transmission of infection, Solante noted it is not the only way by which the Philippines could prevent further spread of Covid-19.

“Number one, it’s really the strict implementation of health protocols, walang katapat ang variant diyan kapag nagsusuot ka ng mask, ng face shield (any variant won’t have an effect on you when you wear mask and face shield),” he said.

Solante emphasized that crowding and eating together when community quarantines ease up are drivers of case surge.

“We need to take care of ourselves and keep ourselves healthy also, because if we’re healthy, then less virus can enter your body because your immune system is working,” he added. 

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