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Why the 'young and healthy' might have to wait until 2022 for the COVID-19 vaccine

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Oct 20, 2020 9:19 pm Updated Oct 20, 2020 11:39 pm

With days passing you by, many of you young adults and Gen Zers might have become more eager to get back to your pre-pandemic life filled with shopping, date-outs, and, of course, travel. But just a heads up: you might need to stretch your patience a little further with the World Health Organization (WHO) saying "young and healthy people" may not receive a COVID-19 vaccine until 2022.

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan announced this in a public briefing last October 14 (Philippine time).

“People tend to think, ah, on the first of January or the first of April, I’m going to get a vaccine and then things will be back to normal. It's not going to work like that," she said.

"There will be a lot of guidance coming out, but I think an average person—a healthy young person—might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine."

It's also because the medical frontliners will be getting top priority, Swaminathan explained. Next in line will be other people at high risk, particularly the elderly and sick, she added.

"Most people agree, it’s starting with healthcare workers, and frontline workers, but even there, you need to define which of them are at highest risk, and then the elderly, and so on."

The data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US shows that patients aged 29 years old and below are less likely to be hospitalized and die from the disease compared to their older counterparts worldwide.

In the local scene, WHO's Situation Report #41 dated June 23 proves that the mortality rate of COVID-19 in the Philippines ranks high in patients aged 60 to 69 (30%), as well as 70 years old and above (35%). There were 31,825 reported cases in the country at that time.

Narrowing it down, President Rodrigo Duterte has earlier announced that low-income families will be the first to receive the vaccine once it is available in the country.

“Ang mauna ‘yung mga walang-wala and of course, ‘yung mga nasa hospital ‘yung mga sick or dying. Ang una ‘yung mga tao sa listahan na tumatanggap ng assistance sa gobyerno,” he said in a public briefing on July 31.

Following the marginalized will be the middle-income Filipinos, the police, and the military. “‘Yung mga upper income, magbili na lang kayo,” the chief executive remarked.

Healthy young people might have to wait at the back of the waiting line for the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo from Gustavo on Pexels.

In its continuing effort to eradicate COVID-19 worldwide, WHO launched the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility last September 21. The initiative, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, "will give participating countries access to the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates."

More than 150 countries are currently taking part in the development of the vaccine, aiming to produce 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. However, that number would only cover a quarter of the world's total population of 7.8 billion, with Adhanom noting that "priority is given to those most at risk, including health workers, older people, and others at the highest risk."

The young and healthy ones would then have to wait for two more years to return to their "normal" lives.