By Corina Oliquino

MANILA — The Social Weather Station’s (SWS) latest survey found eight out of 10 Filipinos expect a COVID-19 vaccine will be available in the country next year.

The survey, conducted from September 17 to 20, showed 70 percent of respondents believe a vaccine will be available in 2021, 5 percent3 said it will probably happen and only 17 percent did not expect it happen next year.

At least 80 percent of respondents also expect the availability of medicine for COVID-19 in the next 12 months while 70 percent do not expect an effective treatment will happen next year.

SWS said expectations of a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment are significantly higher among educated groups and younger Filipinos, and those residing in Metro Manila.

At least 81 percent of college graduates expect a vaccine while 82 percent believe that there will be an available treatment in the next 12 months.

Only 68 percent non-elementary graduates expect a vaccine while only 70 percent believe that there will be an available treatment next year.

In terms of age, 80 percent of those in the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups expect a vaccine compared with 81 percent among 35-44 years old, 76 percent among 45-54 years old and 74 percent among those above 55 years old.

Those expecting an effective treatment for COVID-19 is highest among 18-4 years old at 89 percent followed by those among 25-34 years old at 85 percent, 35-44 years old at 81 percent, 45-54 years old at 76 percent and those above 55 years old at 72 percent.

Metro Manila residents, on the other hand, are the most expectant on the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine next year at 82 percent followed by the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao at 79 percent.

In terms of an effective treatment, those residing in the metro expect the availability of a medicine next year at 85 percent followed by the Visayas at 82 percent, Mindanao at 81 percent and the rest of Luzon at 77 percent.

More Filipinos expect a vaccine than Americans 

SWS said Filipinos at 80 percent expect a COVID-19 vaccine than Americans at 73 percent according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Centre from April 29 to May 25.

In terms of treatment, 83 percent of Americans and Filipinos alike expect an effective treatment while 16 percent do not believe it will be available in the next 12 months.

COVID-19 vaccine for all Filipinos is still far from “becoming a reality” 

In a report by The Philippine Star’s One News, experts from OCTA Research Team tempered expectations for COVID-19 vaccine for all Filipinos as they called for continuous efforts to prevent the further spread of the deadly virus. 

“I’m not very optimistic about the vaccine, we still have a lot of hurdles to face,” OCTA member and University of the Philippines Mathematics Professor Guido David told One News and TV5’s The Chiefs last week.

“Christmas is just around the corner… that may cause an uptick or surge of cases in parts of the Philippines. Surges are happening. We have to take care of what is in front of us first before we dream about the vaccines,” David added.

Another OCTA member, UP Political Science professor Ranjit Rye, said COVID cases may now be on the decline, but the current trend can be reversed any time.

“It’s a big thing because before, in NCR, 17 people per 200 tested are COVID positive,” Rye said.

“What we are trying to emphasize is, what got us here was really the discipline to practice minimum health standards, the universal use of masks,” Rye added, noting “the biggest problem for the country is complacency – overestimating our achievement and underestimating the virus.”

While the COVID reproductive and positivity rate in NCR is improving, Rye said several areas in the country like the cities of Davao and Baguio are now experiencing a surge in cases.

“(A vaccine) is still far from being a done deal, so that is way we have to constantly urge people to be vigilant. We have to constantly inform people that while it is not yet a reality, we have to continue fighting this virus,” Rye said.

OCTA member Fr. Nicanor Austriaco of the University of Santo Tomas said initial tranches of the vaccines “will likely go to wealthy countries in Europe” while the Philippines is expected to face massive challenges in cold storage and distribution of the Pfizer vaccine.

“I just wanted to highlight that there is going to be enormous challenge that we will face. In many ways, this vaccine is an exciting development (but) it is not ideal for a country like ours. The better vaccine is a vaccine which hopefully will have similar efficacy but will not require the super cold technology,” Austriaco said.

PH Ambassador to the US assured by Pfizer of vaccine supply

In a report by Rappler, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez said American pharmaceutical company Pfizer ensured the supply of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate for the Philippines once it has been approved for distribution.

On November 9, Pfizer announced its COVID-19 vaccine candidate with BioNTech proved 90 percent effective in an interim study of Phase three clinical trials.

“As long as they get approval and we tell them what we need, they’re ready to supply it,” Romualdez said.

“Of course, their production this year, the United States will go first because they need 100 million vaccine (dose),” Romualdez, pegging the cost at $5 a shot or around ₱240.

Romualdez said Pfizer was the first American pharmaceutical firm to contact him following his discussions with other companies like Moderna, noting “the talks were supposedly the result of discussions between Philippine Foreign Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr and US Sec. of State Mike Pompeo last April.”