The Department of Health (DOH) has assured the public on Friday that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing severe infection and hospitalization against the disease, after vaccinated health workers in Indonesia reportedly got infected.
In particular, the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinovac – which the Indonesian health workers were inoculated with -- remains effective in preventing the severe symptoms or virus-related deaths, the DOH added.
Another DOH health expert said the more than 350 Indonesian medical workers may have caught COVID-19 despite being vaccinated because they have a higher risk of exposure to the virus due to their occupation.
Dr. Rontgene Solante, in an interview with Teleradyo, said the widespread presence of Delta coronavirus variant in Indonesia may have also caused the infection.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the assurance and said real-world studies show that COVID-19 vaccines available in the Philippines are effective.
“Let’s get the vaccine, let us not be doubtful... Vaccines are one of the keys to fight the pandemic,” she said in a briefing.
On Monday, dozens of the 350 Indonesian health workers who got Sinovac were hospitalized.
However, Vergeire urged caution in interpreting the report.
“We cannot deny that there really are breakthrough infections,” she said, referring to COVID-19 cases after vaccination. “But we need to get all the data so we can analyze it thoroughly,” she said.
If Indonesia has 5,000 health workers, then 350 is just 7 percent, so the Sinovac jab is still 93 percent effective, Vergeire said.
As of June 17, of the 14.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the country, 9 million are from Sinovac.
The Philippines is also using COVID-19 jabs from AstraZeneca, Gamaleya and Pfizer.
The Delta coronavirus variant, first detected in India, is believed to be more infectious and likely to cause severe illness, Solante said.
The Indonesian workers “are at higher risk because they deal with COVID-19 everyday,” said the DOH infectious diseases specialist and member of the country’s vaccine expert panel.
Reuters reported that most of the workers who tested positive were asymptomatic and only a few needed to be hospitalized.
Most of the workers were asymptomatic and self-isolating at home, said Badai Ismoyo, head of the health office in the district of Kudus in central Java.
However, dozens were in hospital with high fevers and falling oxygen-saturation levels.
Designated as a priority group, health-care workers were among the first to be vaccinated when inoculations began in January.
Almost all have received the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese biopharmaceutical company, the Indonesian Medical Association has said.
Despite getting COVID-19, Solante stressed that the patients were mostly asymptomatic.
“The vaccine still offers great benefit. Because of the vaccine, they didn’t have symptoms,” he said.
In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) approved Sinovac for emergency use listing.
An emergency listing from the UN’s health agency is a signal to national regulators of a product’s safety and efficacy and will allow the Sinovac shot to be included in COVAX, the global program providing vaccines mainly for poor countries.
According to results, the Sinovac vaccine prevented symptomatic disease in 51 percent of those vaccinated and prevented severe COVID-19 and hospitalization in 100 percent of the studied population, the WHO said.