Nguyen urges DPHSS to shift focus to influenza and drop push for Covid shots
Updated: Oct 17, 2022
Former medical advisor says risks of vaccine outweigh its benefits
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Given that Covid-19 has reached the endemic stage, the former chief medical advisor to the governor said the Department of Public Health and Social Services must shift gears toward controlling the spread of influenza.
“We have already seen the severity and prevalence of influenza. The majority of admissions are patients with influenza,” said Dr. Hoa Nguyen, former chairman of the governor’s Physician Advisory Group.
Influenza, the seasonal flu caused by a viral infection that attacks the lungs, nose and throat, will reach its peak between December and March, Nguyen said.
“That’s where we need to concentrate. Public Health should push flu shots instead of Covid vaccine,” he added.
Guam Memorial Hospital last week reported a higher-than-usual number of pediatric admissions, attributing it to the current cold and flu season. The hospital's Pediatric Unit was at maximum capacity during the first weekend of October, prompting the need for additional beds.
While the government continues to prod the Covid-19 shots, Nguyen warned that the risks of the vaccine outweigh its benefits.
“Covid-19 is now in the endemic phase, with lower prevalence and very mild symptoms from the current variants. There's not much hospitalization anymore,” said Nguyen, a family physician at American Medical Center.
DPHSS last week reported 48 Covid-positive cases from tests done between Oct 11 and 14. Guam has recorded 58,695 cases and 401 deaths since March 2020.
Nguyen said the Covid-19 vaccine should be given only to individuals in the high-risk group, specifically the elderly with multiple comorbidities. “I encourage those who are at high risk to talk to their physicians,” he said.
He said the Covid-19 vaccine should not be pushed to the general population, especially children.
Nguyen warned that the Covid vaccine exposes young males— from 18 to 39 years old — to the risk of myocarditis, a condition that causes inflammation of the heart muscle.
“As physicians, we have to be cautious because we are the ones responsible for the patients,” he said.
Nguyen stepped down as chairman of the Physicians Advisory Group in protest of the Guam governor’s latest directive that pits the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.
Despite the low number of cases, Guam's public health emergency has been extended to Nov. 5.
"It's not related to public health; it's related to finances," Nguyen said. "Restrictions have been lifted around the world. We've had big social gatherings where people don't wear masks. Quarantine requirements have been dropped."
DPHSS continues to endorse Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines for children six months and older, offering incentives such as gift certificates to encourage shot series completion and boosters “while supplies last.”
As of Sept. 21, a total of 140,108 eligible residents (six months and older) are fully vaccinated.
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On Sept. 2, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the use of new bivalent formulations of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA Covid-19 vaccines as a booster dose.
"People who completed the series for Moderna and Pfizer will need one booster for travel purposes due to some countries' requirements," Nguyen said. "This booster needs to be given at least 14 days prior to travel."
Meanwhile, DPHSS reported that Guam has received an additional 200 doses of the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization.
Officials said the Novavax vaccine will be available at the DPHSS Northern Region Community Health Center in Dededo.
“The Novavax vaccine is a two-dose primary series with three to eight weeks between dose one and dose two,” the department said. “Currently, the Novavax vaccine is not authorized for any booster dose. Additionally, individuals who complete their primary series with two doses of Novavax vaccine are not eligible for a booster dose at this time.”