Robredo backs doctors' calls for HTAC assessment of Sinovac jabs
Members of All U.P. Workers Union Manila (UPWUM) demand the national government to provide healthcare workers with COVID-19 vaccines with high efficacy and effectiveness during a protest on Friday.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

Robredo backs doctors' calls for HTAC assessment of Sinovac jabs

(Philstar.com) - February 28, 2021 - 11:45am

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday backed calls form medical groups for further studies on Sinovac vaccines before they are administered amid doubts about the jabs that are set to arrive Sunday.

Doctors from the Philippine General Hospital, where the country will begin its weeks-delayed vaccination program, said on Saturday that the Health Technology Assessment Council should look into Sinovac more for an "individual informed decision-making."

The HTAC is an independent advisory body created by the Universal Health Care Act and, according to the Department of Health website, is mandated "to undertake technology appraisals by determining their clinical and economic values in the Philippine healthcare system, with the aim to improve overall health outcomes and ensure fairness, equity, and sustainability of coverage for all Filipino citizens."

It was a view shared by the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, especially since local regulators initially advised against using the Chinese-made jabs on medical personnel tending to those infected.

The National Immunization Technical Advisory Group has since said the Sinovac vaccines are recommended for use by healthcare workers. 

In statement on Saturday, HTAC said it "is currently in the process of evaluating evidence on the said COVID-19 (Sinovac) vaccine, and is awaiting more data."

It added: "Recognizing the importance of the potential of all COVID-19 vaccines to help the national government in the pandemic response, the HTAC commits to judiciously look into all aspects of the CoronaVac vaccine which can impact the health system response as well as the health of vaccine recipients." 

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In her weekly radio show, Robredo said government should wait for HTAC's recommendation on Sinovac before allowing it to be used. The HTAC has issued those recommendations for the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines.

"If we look at the recent events, it seems that it's not the same treatment.," she said over DZXL. "It's difficult to have this situation because we have always had a communication problem. One agency says it is allowed while the other says it is not."

Dr. Nina Castillo-Carandang, a member of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group, said an HTAC assessment was no longer required for the arriving 600,000 doses of Sinovac as it is a donation from Beijing,

"I don't buy that argument that because these were donated, they don't need a positive recommendation from HTAC," the vice president said. "Whether or not that was donated, we need to protect our fellow Filipinos."

Robredo made clear that she is not saying the Sinovac vaccines are harmful, only that it should follow the same process.


PGH previously said a survey of hospital personnel found a 94-percent willingness to be vacicnated, but they said that they were under the impression that the vaccine to be given went through the "proper evaluation process" by all three bodies — the FDA, HTAC and NITAG.

Doctors said too that there were surprised that they were to be vaccinated with Sinovac, saying the vaccine had a "sweeping disapproval" among 95% of PGH staff.

The Chinese-made jabs are set to arrive in the Philippines as the month comes to a close. Apart from the 600,000 doses, government has signed a term sheet for 25 million more. — Christian Deiparine with reports from Xave Gregorio

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