MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippines will authorize the emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech before Feb. 20, an official leading the immunization effort said on Wednesday even as the drugmaker has yet to submit its application to the Food and Drug Administration.
"Nakita po namin, ang EUA (emergency use authorization) maa-approve before Feb. 20," said Carlito Galvez Jr., Chief Implementer of the National Task Force COVID-19.
But Galvez said Sinovac first needs to wrap up its vaccine clinical trials in Turkey and Brazil, data from which will be submitted to the Philippines' drug regulator, said Galvez, who is also the country's inoculation czar.
The firm is also waiting for China's permission for export and general use, which might be issued in the first week of February, he said in a public briefing.
"Nilalatag na po ngayon," he added.
(It's being laid out.)
The Philippines has already secured 25 million jabs of the Sinovac vaccine, the first 50,000 doses of while will arrive in the country in February, Malacañang had said.
Sinovac's vaccine was just 50.4 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in a Brazilian trial, researchers said on Tuesday, barely enough for regulatory approval.
This rate is below results they announced last week showing 78 percent efficacy against "mild to severe" COVID-19 cases.
Bambang Heriyanto, corporate secretary of Bio Farma, the Indonesian company involved in the trials, said the Brazilian data was still above the 50 percent benchmark set by the World Health Organization.
Turkish researchers said in December that CoronaVac showed a 91.25 percent efficacy based on interim analysis.
Galvez said the public should wait for a formal assessment by Filipino experts before speculating on news reports that Sinovac's vaccine is just 50 percent effective.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson questioned what he described was government's preference for the "more expensive" and supposedly less efficient COVID-19 vaccine by Sinovac even as better-rated formulations are already available.
"Can somebody explain why preference is given to the second most expensive vaccine, has lower efficacy, a record of suspended clinical trials and has not even applied for EUA over other vaccines that cost much less, more efficacious and are about to be granted their EUA’s?" Lacson said in a tweet Wednesday.
- With a report from Reuters
Video courtesy of PTV