[COLUMN] 4th COVID-19 shot?

OMICRON is super-contagious and skyrocketing across the nation, while the virus continues to replicate and mutate mostly in the bodies of those more than 50 million unvaccinated people in the U.S. who are “carriers/transmitters” causing the current massive surges (almost a million last week) in COVID-19 infections, 70,000 hospitalizations, and about 1,300 deaths daily. Indeed, this is mostly the pandemic of the unvaccinated. Those with the booster must still be careful, since they still have a 5-10 percent chance of getting infected, especially with Omicron and future strains.

In spite of the more than 829,000 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19, the government still refuses to employ the proven standard epidemiologic protocol at its disposal that would rapidly end this pandemic: most importantly, a federal vaccine mandate. It might sound crazy but, as a physician who is very frustrated like millions of other people, I feel like suing the government for gross negligence and dereliction of duty resulting in unintentional “negligent genocide.” If I neglect to follow the standard of care protocol in treating a patient who died as a result, I will lose my license, be fined, and maybe go to jail. So, why not hold our government accountable and liable?

Post-COVID-19 syndrome

For those who are waiting for natural immunity to protect them from COVID-19, the bad news is this: In order to develop natural immunity, one has to be infected by COVID-19 first and many of them would die (like the two anti-vax radio talk show hosts) before they develop natural immunity. Natural immunity is unstable, unreliable, and short-lasting, compared to immunity from the vaccines. The risk from COVID-19 infection is at least 20-30 times greater than the risk from the vaccine, which is a fraction of one percent. And if one survives the infection, there are a lot of health issues (post-COVID-19 syndrome) that could last for months, if not years, with exhaustion, headaches, rapid heart rate, weakness, depression, cognitive impairment, loss of appetite, loss of smell and/or taste, blood clots, etc. Getting the vaccine is the clear and wise choice.

Proven vaccine safety

More than 8.7 billion vaccines have been administered around the world – about 487 million doses in the U.S., and more than 60 million doses in the Philippines. The vaccines have been massively proven to be safe and effective.

Laboratory studies show the T-cells induced by the vaccines could protect people from Omicron, and those infected might have milder symptoms. We still don’t know for sure if Omicron is not worse.

In the pipeline are chewing gum from lettuce that neutralizes the SAR-CoV2 virus in the saliva to reduce infection and transmission, and pills for COVID-19.

4th vaccine?

The new definition of “fully vaccinated” now appears to include the booster. The need for a 4th shot will be decided by the ravages from Omicron and the future strains “churned out” by the unvaccinated.

The Omicron is at least ten times more rapidly contagious. COVID-19 patients are filling up hospital beds around the country, with many of them waiting in hallways, and resulting in the cancelation of elective surgeries. The current 70,000 hospitalizations are 40 percent higher than last month.

I only pray that the repeated mutations, enabled mostly by unvaccinated carriers, will not produce a deadly variant that would not respond to vaccines or anything else, resulting in Armageddon, the annihilation of our civilization. Science fiction? A figment of my imagination? Yes, and I hope it stays that way, with God’s mercy.

Global medical mission

Filipino American surgeons in the United States are well known for their love of our beloved native land of birth, the Philippines, and our people back home, especially those marginalized, suffering in the gutter of poverty in the hinterlands.

Annual medical/surgical missions, like our own Las Vegas yearly mission to  Kamay ni Hesus (Hands of Jesus) Pilgrimage town in Lucban, Quezon, (led by Danny Fabito) serve more than two thousand people each year. And there are dozens of other Fil-Am groups from the U.S. and Canada who fly home to provide free medical care and medicines to our neglected fellow Filipinos. These Fil-Am physicians are inspired by their compassion and desire to give back to their homeland.

One such group is headed by Dr. Pedro J. Obregon, MD, FACS, a graduate of FEU Institute of Medicine in 1960, who was inducted into the Global Medical Mission Hall of fame in 2014 at the University of Toledo, Ohio. The award also included the Distinguished Global Faculty Membership of the University of Toledo Health Sciences. Pete is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America, and recipient of the Most Outstanding Medical Alumnus Award from the FEU-DNR School of Medicine Alumni Foundation.

Pete started his general surgery practice in 1967 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1973. While in practice, he volunteered 2-4 weeks a year to do surgical missions abroad for the faith-based humanitarian Medical Ministry International (MMI). He also directed two homeless clinics, Faith Mission and Open Shelter in Columbus. He decided to devote his time to his humanitarian endeavors, retired from private practice in 1993, and accepted the full-time directorship of MMI, a position he still holds today. His wife of 31 years, Judy, a respiratory therapist, pharmacy technician, and a medical assistant, is the Project Director of MMI. The Ministry was based in Irving, Texas, till 2009 when it moved to Toronto, Canada.

Pete heads regular surgical missions, 2-3 times or more each year, in various countries around the world. A sample tour is the one in 1994, when he and his team traveled to Kibogora, Rwanda, after the genocide. They proceeded to Iloilo, Roxas City, Malaybalay, Bukidnon, T’Boli, South Cotabato, Esmeralda, Ecuador, and Karanda, Zimbabwe. With 2 other surgeons, anesthesiologists, his team of 10-12 did 80-100 cases each time and a total of 500-550 a year. They have provided surgical missions in many other areas (Cebu, Aklan, Palawan, Leyte, Antique, etc.)  in the Philippines. The COVID-19 pandemic derailed their schedules for 2020 and 2021. For 2022, they are planning to go to Bolivia, Dominican Republic, and Panama.

This indefatigable Fil-Am surgeon and his team have performed surgeries in 45 countries in the last 32 years, a great source of pride and inspiration for the Philippines, the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America, and for every Filipino.

A blessed Christmas and a joyous and safe New Year to all!

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: FUN8888.com, TODAY.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com.


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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