FOLLOWING a thorough review, the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (Nitag) and the Department of Health – Technical Advisory Group (DOH-TAG) have recommended the use of Sinovac-made vaccines “CoronaVac” from China for the use of the country’s health-care workers (HCWs).
In a media forum, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the Nitag and TAG have been holding meetings for the past few days, “and after a thorough discussion, our Nitag experts with TAG have concluded that the vaccine would be beneficial for the health-care workers.”
The DOH official issued the clarification after questions were raised on the safety of Sinovac if it is administered to the HCWs. This, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it is not recommended for medical frontliners who have much higher exposure to the virus than others..
Vergeire said that the recommendation of the FDA came from the data of the clinical trial of Sinovac vaccine showing a 50.4 percent efficacy rate.
The DOH official clarified that Sinovac is 50 percent effective in preventing mild symptoms and 100 percent effective against moderate to severe symptoms.
“The same data also shows that it [Sinovac] is effective in reducing morbidity and mortality. Given this evidence, the Nitag and TAG have deemed it sufficient to recommend the use of the vaccine for health-care workers as it bears to reiterate that our goal for prioritizing the health-care workers for vaccination is to reduce morbidity and mortality among their group while they maintain the clinical and essential health services,” Vergeire said.
The DOH official also emphasized that the “provision” on the use for HCWs attending to Covid-19 patients included in the emergency use agreement (EUA) granted for Sinovac is not a “contraindication” nor a recommendation borne out of of concern over the safety of the vaccine.
“The DOH, the FDA, and panel of experts conferred that the current available evidence is enough to establish that Sinovac vaccine is safe for use,” she added.
She stressed that the FDA also clarified that their advisory that it is not recommended for HCWs is not meant to “question” the safety of the vaccine, but for the national government to consider that “given the low reported efficacy in this specific recipient group, providing Sinovac vaccine to health-care workers may not yield the most ideal results.”
Hence, Vergeire explained, “[it] may not be the most rational use for this very limited supply resource, given the context of the limited vaccine supply. Therefore, it was never a question of the vaccine’s safety but a question on rational use of available resources.”
Vergeire also stressed that at any rate, it is up to HCWs if they want to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Maria Consorcia Quizon, Nitag member, encouraged HCWs to avail of the Sinovac vaccine, assuring them the jab had undergone proper evaluation.
“It is safe for use for the workers and we need to protect them and since ito ang available ngayon kailangan nating gamitin ito sa kanila [this is the only available vaccine at the moment, this is what we are going to use],” Quizon said.
If they refuse, Quizon said they are still eligible to receive and be included in the second tranche.
For his part, Dr. Edsel Salvana stressed that HCWs deserve to make the decision if “they feel it’s not the best.”
However, Dr. Castillo-Carandang is worried that if HCWs will not avail themselves of the vaccinate, it may not send a good signal to the public.
“We’d like to offer this opportunity for health-care workers, if they’re willing to do so to have themselves vaccinated with Sinovac,” she stressed.
Arriving on Sunday
China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian announced on Thursday that the Sinovac-made vaccines “CoronaVac” donated by China will arrive on Sunday.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that the government’s vaccination program may start on March 1.
The DOH and NTF said that the “specific details as to the allocation and subsequent rollout” of the 600,000 donated Sinovac doses are still being evaluated at the moment.
The FDA on Monday announced that an emergency use authorization (EUA) was already granted for the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine.
Image credits: AP/Sakchai Lalit