National experts recommend use of Sinovac jab for health workers

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
National experts recommend use of Sinovac jab for health workers
View of a box containing a vial of the Sinovac vaccine against COVID-19 during the vaccination campaign in Santo Domingo on February 25, 2021.
AFP / Erika Santelices

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:01 p.m.) — The country’s National Immunization Technical Advisory Group recommended the use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech for health workers but said that medical frontliners can still opt not to receive the China-made jab. 

In a briefing Friday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said members of the NITAG and the department’s Technical Advisory Group have concluded that the Sinovac vaccine, known as CoronaVac, is safe and will be “beneficial” to medical frontliners.

NITAG is a group of experts responsible for providing independent, evidence-informed advice to policymakers on issues related to immunization and vaccines.

“The NITAG and TAG has deemed it sufficient to recommend the use of vaccine for healthcare workers as it bears to reiterate that our goal for prioritizing healthcare workers for vaccination is to reduce morbidity and mortality among their group, while they maintain the most critical essential health services,” she said.

The government’s inter-agency task force on pandemic response has already approved the recommendation of NITAG.

“This will be presented to the president,” Vergeire said. 

FDA recommendation

The country’s Food and Drug Administration gave emergency approval Monday to CoronaVac— with the first doses set to arrive on Sunday—but did not recommend its use for health workers because they are constantly exposed to COVID-19 patients. The drug regulator later clarified that medical frontliners are not prohibited to receive the vaccine if they want to. 

According to late stage trials in Brazil involving health workers who have had exposure to COVID-19 cases, the jabs yielded only a 50.4% efficacy rate.

Vergeire stressed the recommendation of the FDA was not a question of vaccine safety but a “question of rational use of available resources.”

The FDA said the vaccine can be given to “clinically healthy” adults aged 18 to 59 after it was found to have an efficacy rate of 65.3% in clinical trials held in Indonesia and 91.25% in the study conducted in Turkey. 

Health workers’ choice

Health experts emphasized it is for the medical frontliners to decide whether they will take the Sinovac shot or not and that the prioritization framework will still be followed.

Health workers are at the top of the government’s priority list for vaccination. 

“Vaccination with the incoming Sinovac donation is voluntary... If they are hesitant to accept this vaccine, then they can wait for the next available vaccine but we don’t know when that would be,” Dr. Nina Castillo-Carandang, NITAG member, said. 

Dr. Edsel Salvana, member of the DOH TAG, said the vaccine “looks like it will save lives” and it is right to offer the available jab to the frontliners. 

“If they feel this is not the right vaccine for them, then we are not going to penalize them. They are still first in line for either Pfizer or AstraZeneca,” he said. 

The initial doses of 600,000—which are donated by vaccine—are expected to arrive in the country on Sunday.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 12, 2023 - 2:59pm

The national government has so far secured two official deals for COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the Philippines, one with Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac and another with the Serum Institute of India.

Watch this space for bite-sized developments on the vaccines in the Philippines. (Main image by Markus Spiske via Unsplash)

April 12, 2023 - 2:59pm

Health Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire says the general population may now get their second booster jab.

"We're just waiting for the release of implementing guidelines, then we'll start rolling out our second booster for the general population," she says. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

August 23, 2022 - 10:12am

Amid questions on vaccines being administered, the Department of Health assures the public all doses are safe and effective as the “process of extending shelf life goes through thorough stability studies.”

“The government ensures that every vaccine that is injected with an extended shelf life has gone through studies, and is still safe and effective against COVID-19,” it adds.

January 4, 2022 - 9:06am

Government must increase vaccination capacity across the Philippines in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant of the corona virus, Sen. Risa Hontiveros says.

She says local government units and the private sector can work together to put up more vaccination centers and deploy more vaccination teams to get more people inoculated against COVID-19.

"The active COVID cases have nearly doubled in three days. The positivity rate is almost four times the ceiling set by the World Health Organization. Huwag na nating hintayin na sobrang lumala pa ang sitwasyon bago tayo gumawa ng paraan para mapabilis ang ating pagbabakuna."

December 23, 2021 - 11:44am

FDA chief Eric Domingo says that its agency has given emergency approval for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

November 11, 2021 - 7:30am

The United States immunized around 900,000 children aged five-to-11 against Covid in the first week the Pfizer vaccine was authorized for them, a White House official says Wednesday.

Roughly 700,000 more have made appointments at pharmacies, White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients tells reporters.

"The program is just getting up to full strength," he says, adding most of the shots were given in the last couple of days alone. — AFP

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