Philippines starts COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - March 1, 2021 - 9:45am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 10:46 a.m.) — The Philippines finally kicked off its long-anticipated COVID-19 inoculation drive, which has been delayed for weeks, on Monday, with medical workers and government officials leading the country’s pandemic response among the first in the queue to receive the coveted shots.

The first dose of CoronaVac, the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, was given to University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital Director Gerardo Legaspi during a “symbolic” vaccination activity. He was the first one to receive an authorized COVID-19 shot in the country.

Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo, testing czar Vince Dizon and Metro Manila Development Authority chair Benjamin Abalos Jr. were also inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine.

The rollout came as the country saw the highest number of daily new infections in over four months. More than 576,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported, including over 12,000 deaths.

Aside from PGH, it will be administered to health workers at the Lung Center of the Philippines, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center and Sanitarium, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Philippine National Police General Hospital and Victoriano Luna Medical Center.

The 600,000 doses of Sinovac arrived in the country Sunday. These are a donation from the Chinese government. Military personnel are also set to receive 100,000 doses.

Last year, members of the Presidential Security Group and several government officials jumped the vaccination line and used smuggled vaccines developed by China’s state-owned pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm in an unauthorized inoculation activity that surprised health authorities.

‘Doses of hope’

FDA approved the CoronaVac for emergency use a week ago but did not recommend the Chinese-made vaccine to medical frontliners due to a lower efficacy rate reported among the group. It cited results from late-stage trials in Brazil involving health workers exposed to COVID-19 that yielded only a 50.4% efficacy rate.

But the health department stressed that the same Brazil study found the vaccine is 100% effective in staving off moderate to severe cases. It was also found to have efficacy rates of 65.3% and 91.25% in trials held in Indonesia and Turkey, respectively.

Experts part of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group approved the Sinovac jab to be offered to those willing to take it, reiterating is safe and effective.

But many health workers are reluctant and have decided to wait for other vaccines. They were given assurance that they will not lose their spot in the government’s priority list should they refuse to get vaccinated with CoronaVac.

Unlike competitor vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, Sinovac has yet to submit critical Phase 3 clinical trial data to medical journals for peer review.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. called the donated Sinovac shots “doses of hope” as he called on Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Philippines is aiming to vaccinate 70 million people this year alone. But due to the shortage of supplies, the “major rollout” will only begin in the third quarter at the earliest. 

The arrival of around 525,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, distributed through the COVAX facility, was supposed to be on Monday but will be delayed for a week due to “global supply problem.”

The government faces the difficult task of conducting a massive inoculation program against COVID-19 following the botched rollout of Dengvaxia. This was highly-politicized despite unfounded claims that the vaccine caused the deaths of children inoculated with it during the previous administration.

Recent surveys show that only that almost half of the population are not inclined to get inoculated against COVID-19. The OCTA Research Group survey released last week found only 19% of adult Filipinos are willing to receive COVID-19 vaccines, while a January Pulse Asia survey showed only 32% want to get vaccinated.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 15, 2021 - 2:28pm

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 15, 2021 - 2:28pm

The US, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will provide P170 million in support to help the Department of Health rollout the government's COVID-19 vaccination program.

According to the US Embassy, the aid was announced by US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law during a visit to a Caloocan City vaccination site with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other officials.

"Through this new funding, USAID will support the Philippines in strengthening the vaccine supply chain, monitoring vaccine safety, and delivering effective communication campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy.  This assistance will also support local government units as they plan for, track, and administer vaccines."

April 13, 2021 - 8:42pm

Top US health authorities recommended a "pause" in the use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine "out of an abundance of caution" as they investigate any links between it and blood clots, a regulator said Tuesday.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are assessing the "potential significance" of six reported cases of a rare blood clot in patients who have received the shot, the FDA tweeted. 

"Until that process is complete, we are recommending this pause," it said.

The regulator said that as of Monday more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered in the US.

"CDC & FDA are reviewing data involving 6 reported U.S. cases of a rare & severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine. Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare," the FDA stated on Twitter. — AFP 

April 13, 2021 - 11:20am

Some 20 million doses of Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in the Philippines within the next four months.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. says the government will sign a supply agreement with Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute this week.

“It can be used on the elderly, so from 18 and above. So we can use this and the good thing is at least in the absence of AstraZeneca, we can use this,” Galvez says in an interview with ANC's "Headstart."

April 8, 2021 - 11:35am

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian gets his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

A post on Valenzuela City's official Twitter account says the mayor chose Chinese-made Sinovac.

April 7, 2021 - 9:23pm

Germany's Bavaria region has signed a provisional agreement to buy doses of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine once it is approved by European regulators, state premier Markus Soeder said Wednesday.

The southern state has "signed a memorandum of understanding today... for the supply of Sputnik," Soeder told reporters in Munich. 

If the Sputnik vaccine is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Bavaria is set to receive around 2.5 million doses in the coming months through a company in the Bavarian town of Illertissen, Soeder said. — AFP

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