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Vaccines as intervention to end Covid-19

It’s a good time to educate our children with regard to our infection control and hygiene.

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NO vaccine is perfect. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF UNSPLASH/HAKAN NURAL

Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines are meant to protect the people from the virus itself. It is meant to reduce the number of deaths and patients suffering from severe Covid-19 infections, an infectious disease and internal medicine specialist explained.

Head of Asian Hospital Infection and Prevention Control unit Dr. Joseph Adrian Buensalido discussed the interventions that could minimize the amplifying effects of Covid-19 — now that there are new variants developing — on TribuneNow’s PairFect.

Daily Tribune (DT): How is your hospital dealing with the new Delta variant and surging Covid-19 cases?

Dr. Joseph Adrian Buensalido

Dr. Joseph Adrian Buensalido (JAB): We’re still continuing to do what we have been doing. Essentially, the enemy is still coronavirus, it’s just that this new variant seems to be more transmissible. But what [we can] do to defend ourselves against this new variant is really to protect ourselves.

What do we mean by that though? We must maintain our minimum health precautions or minimum preventive efforts [such as] maximizing the use of masks, face shields [and] physical distancing. Those are cheap interventions. They’re imperfect, meaning they cannot end this pandemic. All of those together, with the final exclamation point being vaccination, we have an ending for the pandemic.

DT: Regarding hand hygiene, is it just washing of hands or any kind of alcohol and sanitizer will do?

JAB: Of course, the best is soap and water, but because we’re on the move all the time, the next alternative would be alcohol-based hand rubs. In hospitals, we have by the door, by the patient’s bedside, we already have accessible hand rubs, because going to the sink is an extra step [or] another couple of minutes to go there.

DT: Going back to when the pandemic first struck, how would you compare hospitals then to now?

JAB: From March to April last year, ang daming namatay (many died). But towards the end of March, we put our foot down [and] said we should try other things this time because this is not the usual virus we have been facing in the years that have passed. Eventually, we got the formula [and] we learned that for severe coronavirus infections. We tried many anti-swelling medicines [or] anti-inflammatory medications. Afterwards, we saw a real drop in patients who died [and] patients who got worse.

VACCINATION should be rolled out quickly to achieve herd immunity. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF UNSPLASH/MAT NAPO

Eventually, we were able to use antivirals. In addition to preventing swelling of the lungs [or] worsening, we were able to kill the virus. More and more as time went by, we developed more weapons against coronavirus. Right now, we are very confident of how we treat and manage these patients. Meaning, the number of people getting the infection bad and dying from it really went down.

DT: Is the worst really not over, with the Lambda variant now of concern?

JAB: How can we prevent these variants? It’s natural [that] they will really change. We really need to stop this pandemic [and] like I said, infection prevention will [involve the use] of masks, shields, distancing, alcohol sanitation [and] washing our hands and then finally, vaccination. Not just vaccination — kailangan vaccination na mabilisan (it has to be vaccination rolled out quickly).

If the virus changes its appearance, naturally the vaccines will lose their effectiveness a little bit. And what if the virus changes into a bad variant, yung talagang ibang iba, baka hindi na talaga mag work ang vaccine (one that is really so different that the vaccines really won’t work)? Which is why we are doing double time in trying to vaccinate everyone, kasi yun ang ating (because that is our) hope to end this pandemic — which is to get herd immunity.

DT: How can you clarify questions on the efficacy of vaccine brands on new variants like Delta and Lambda?

JAB: If you think about it and look at all the vaccines available to us right now, [they are] 90 percent to 100 percent good at preventing severe disease and the worst types of Covid. In other words, it will prevent us from going to the hospital and reduce our chances of dying because of a severe and critical coronavirus disease.

Wag natin [ibalewala] yung nandito na sa atin kasi kahit pa sabihin natin wala tayo tiwala sa (Let’s not dismiss the ones that are already here because brand, which I think we should actually not be like that because we are in an emergency situation. Ang maganda sa vaccines, as opposed to the usual life vest, pag sinuot mo yung life vest na “vaccine,” extend yung protection eh. It doesn’t protect you, the wearer, but it protects those around you.

DT: Will you still be a carrier of the virus after being vaccinated?

JAB: The vaccine is not perfect [and] no vaccine is perfect. So we will need to continue masking up, shielding down, hygiene and distancing ourselves. May narinig ako recently, sabi yung vaccine parang helmet. It will not prevent a crash but it will prevent you from getting complications from the crash. If we just think one intervention will stop it all for us, it won’t happen. It will entail multiple different interventions. Patience, determination and cooperation from all of us.

DT: As a parent of two kids yourself, what’s your advice to parents?

JAB: We have to follow the recommendations. Right now, we are on ECQ, it’s really [recommended] to not bring your children out and one of the reasons for this is because we cannot vaccinate these children. Since we cannot vaccinate them yet, the ones who are eligible for vaccination should get vaccinated to protect [the children] and the elderly in our houses. It’s a good time to also educate our children with regard to our infection control and hygiene. Hopefully when they grow up, they will bring with them how to effectively prevent infection from entering their bodies.

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