One year after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) emerged, several vaccines have been developed and are now being administered, with some undergoing final stages of human clinical trials, to protect the people and curb the spread of the disease.
In line with this promising and much awaited development amidst the global pandemic, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas successfully organized on February 8, 2021, a Zoom Lecture on the different COVID vaccines with Dr. Michelle ”Chi” Penaranda of the UiT The Arctic University of Norway. With the leadership of Secretary Francisco P. Acosta and Usec. Astravel P. Naik, the CFO has always prioritized the health not only of its clients but also the employees, since the onset of the global public health emergency. Currently, the Philippines has more than 537,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, among the highest in Asia. The government hopes to inoculate up to 70 million people or two-thirds of the population in 2021, which will start first quarter of the year.
More than 60 participants from CFO Manila, Cebu and Davao were able to get first hand information from Dr. Chi who provided an interesting, science-based lecture on the eight different types of vaccines. These are Pfizer/BioNTech (US/ Germany), Moderna (US), Johnson and Johnson, Novavax (US), AstraZeneca (UK), Sinovac (China), Sinopharm (China), and Gamaleya (Russia). The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there are currently more than 50 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in trials. Vaccination will help the bodies develop immunity to SARS-CoV2 infection without having to get the illness.
She comprehensively discussed the four types of vaccine approaches, giving participants appreciation of how these vaccines were made. These are 1. Inactivated vaccines (Sinovac and Sinopharm) – chemical killed whole virus plus adjuvant; 2. Spike protein sub-unit vaccine (Novavax) – SARS-CoV2 spike protein packaged in nanoparticles and delivered into the body together with an adjuvant; 3. Adenovirus vectored vaccine (AstraZeneca, Gamaleya, Johnson and Johnson) – SARS-CoV2 spike protein gene inserted into adenovirus genome and used as antigen delivery vector; and 4. Modified mRNA vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna) – naked modified nRNA in lipid nanoparticles.
She gave relevant information about each of the vaccine’s inactivation method, adjuvant used, overall efficacy against symptomatic and asymptomatic spread, data transparency, storage condition requirements, estimated cost, and if already approved for emergency use in the country. As of the moment, only Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca have been approved by the Philippine-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use, while others are still awaiting accreditation. She cited different factors (availability, efficacy, cost, storage temperature condition, transportation etc.) that should be considered when procuring a vaccine. One challenging issue she shared for example, is how a coutry like the Philippines with tropical climate distribute vaccines that require very low temperature (negative 70C temperature) to remain effective, to far-flung areas with no bio freezers or capacity in meeting the storage requirements.
Other concepts and issues discussed during her presentation and the open forum include protective and herd immunity, immune memory, vaccine safety precautions (especially for individuals with autoimmunity and other immune problems, allergies, or co-morbidities, and those belonging to the vulnerable sector), new variants of COVID-19, getting booster shots, and the case of elderly deaths in Norway. The country may also get discount on vaccines, if they volunteer as vaccine trial participants. She also provided an assessemnt that the Philippines is faring well compared to the US and Norway, in terms of total cases and deaths per 1 million population.
She also shared the COVID-19 situation and health measures in Norway, and how the Filipino community in Tromsø is coping up during these precarious times.
Dr. Chi was a Fulbright scholar, who obtained her PhD from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA) in the field of Pathobiology. For almost two decades, she has been using fish viruses as model systems to study the interplay between a pathogenic virus and its natural host. She has worked on a variety of viruses with varying levels of genome complexity, pathogenicity, and immune evasion strategies, which resulted to several authorship in key international virology and immunology journals. She has also presented results of her studies in various international and local scientific meetings. She also previously worked as a research scientist in the US, Belgium and the Philippines.
Links for the 3-part lecture of Dr. Chi may be accessed through the following sites:
First Part of Lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?fbclid=IwAR1Ad4zVlfS3Xwed0lfXHnjk3U9vpUNnr0hGtksm3jqS45uuGuwZkl78KAs&v=3Cy0HZ3m144&feature=youtu.be
Second Part of Lecture
Third Part of Lecture