By Jun Ledesma

Politics and science don’t mix

January 21, 2021, 2:21 pm

IT does not help that there is a large segment of our population who are adamant or downright afraid of Covid-19 vaccination. It is also bad because the issue of where the source or sources of the vaccines are coming from is notoriously politicized. This is most apparent in the Philippines which has yet to acquire vaccines from whatever sources.  

Fear and adamance are understandable. We just had this nightmarish experience of children dying because of Dengvaxia, a vaccine for dengue which the Aquino administration acquired under foreboding circumstances. 

Dengvaxia stuck in the public consciousness and the fear of yet another vaccine lingers forgetting that we had had so many inoculations before that saved us from slow deaths and disabling diseases. In high school, we had mass “bakuna” (vaccination) against tuberculosis (TB) with bacillus calmette-gueren (BCG). Fast forward, our kids had all sorts of vaccines. Our Rotary Club of Davao along with others all over the country waged a nationwide immunization campaign to eradicate polio. Smallpox which was a very infectious disease that kills three out of ten victims was eradicated in 1977 through mass vaccination. Those who survived before the vaccination had ugly scars all over their bodies and some went blind.  That is just to name a few.

Scientists all over have been experimenting on how to deal with viruses which under varied circumstances mutate. Viruses attack humans, animals, and even plants and originating in several countries. Among the worst recorded in recent times are AIDS (Acute Immune Deficiency Syndrome) which so far has claimed 35-million lives. The killer disease started in West Africa. The virus was believed to have come from chimpanzees and transmitted to humans. It is still a major health concern today. Ebola also occurred in West Africa. Polio originated in New York, USA, Swine Flu in Mexico, Asian Flu in China. An earlier flu epidemic started in Russia and the Yellow fever in Philadelphia, USA. Spanish flu, known to be the vicious pandemic in history that accounted for about 100-million dead did not actually originate from Spain. Wild speculations suggest that it may have originated from East Asia, Europe, and even Kansas, USA. It ravaged several countries in Europe that were involved in the first World War. Not one from among these nations would want to make an issue that the killer viral disease was in fact claiming the lives of their soldiers thus Spain, which was a neutral country, became a convenient suspect of where the flu started. MERS-Cov or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus was first discovered in Saudi Arabia. It was reported that 35% of those infected died. The suspected sources of viral infections are bats and camels. 

I mentioned that plants are affected by viruses too and the manifestation ranges from beauty to grotesque and outright severely damaging. The burgeoning abaca industry of the Philippines was wiped out when the mosaic virus hit plantations in Davao and Bicol region.  It also attacks tomatoes and cucumbers. 

Orchidists love the unusual white and yellow streaks in the broadleaf vandas. These are actually caused by viruses. 

Today’s Covid-19 pandemic has challenged science. Said to have come from Wuhan, China it traveled across continents possibly in the first weeks of January 2020, the Philippines included.  The speed of transport facilities in this jet age and fast trains is the single cause of rapid viral infections worldwide. 

Unlike bacteria that are alive and can be dealt with using antibiotics, the virus is not alive but multiplies in the cells of the host. Scientists all over the globe are racing against time to develop a vaccine that would “fight” the Covid-19 virus.  The vaccine prepares our body defenses by enhancing our immune system. 

The  following have so far been approved in many countries for distribution: 

Pfizer and BioNTech,  AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sputnik V, Sinovac, and Sinopharm. Vaccinations had been in full swing in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, China, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia to name a few. So far only Canada reported deaths of 23 senior citizens although they said to be with serious pre-existing diseases.  We have not heard of any serious reactions except for the expected ones which are easily managed by health attendants. 

I do not want to delve into the different modes of how vaccines are developed. There are scientific medical journals that can back each production of the vaccines.  Vaccination is voluntary and the choice would depend on which among the vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  What I want to stress moreover is that no vaccine producers and the countries where these are manufactured will risk their reputation by coming out with a defective product.  

To our legislators whose penchant for dramatics is not diminished by the pandemic, this is not the time to waste people’s money on useless committee hearings and investigations. The prices of the vaccines of course vary for their methods, which are all science-based,  differ. Astra/Zeneca costs $4/dose and two doses are needed; Pfizer-BioNTech costs $20/dose and two doses are needed; Sinovac cost $5/dose and two doses are needed; Sputnik costs $10/dose and only one dose is required; Moderna cost $33/dose and two doses are needed, and Johnsons & Johnsons cost $10/dose and just one dose is needed. Incidentally, Sinovac is donating 500-thousand doses to the Philippines. Now I wonder where the misplaced pride of some senators who claim that because of a senate investigation corruption was deterred. 

Politics and science don’t mix. 


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.