MANILA — Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine is not recommended for health workers, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday as it announced the approval of the product for emergency use in the Philippines.
“It has a lower efficacy rate of 50.4% when used on health care workers exposed to COVID-19. Therefore, it is not recommended for use in this group,” FDA Director General Eric Domingo said during a Laging Handa briefing.
Health workers, numbering 1,762,994, top the country's list of priority sectors to receive COVID-19 vaccines once supplies arrive.
Domingo said that Phase III clinical trials done in different countries showed that Sinovac's vaccine has an efficacy rate of 65.3% based on trials in Indonesia, and up to 91.2% based on trials done in Turkey. The trials only involve adults aged 18 to 59 years.
Asked for more information on why health workers are advised not to receive the vaccine, Domingo said, “Ang nakita kasi sa trial sa Brazil, binigay ito sa mga health workers na nagtatrabaho sa hospitals na nagti-treat ng COVID, ay 50.4% ang efficacy n'ya.”
“Mas mabuti naman po iyon kaysa sa wala. Pero ang rekomendasyon ng ating mga experts ay hindi po ito ang pinakamagandang bakuna para sa kanila,” he added.
(What they saw in Brazil is that when it was given to health workers working in hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, the vaccine only had an efficacy rate of 50.4%. This is better than nothing, but the recommendation of experts is that it is not the best vaccine for health workers.)
The vaccine's efficacy rate is between 63 percent to 91 percent on members of the community who are not healthworkers, Domingo told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo Tuesday,
"Maganda po talaga. Ang mga pagaaral po nila sa mga regular na mamamayan sa community...na hindi naman po exposed na very highly concentrated sa COVID-19 ay maganda ang kaniyang protection rate, umaabot ng 91 percent," he said.
(It's good. Their studies on regular members of the community...who are not exposed in areas highly concentrated with COVID-19 is it has a good protection rate that goes up to 91 percent.)
Before the FDA approval of Sinovac, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the firm's vaccine will most likely be the first to arrive in the Philippines this month.
Duque said it will take China 3 to 5 days to prepare the shipment of 600,000 doses it is donating to the Philippines.
When Presidential spokesman Harry Roque first announced over a week ago that the arrival of the Sinovac vaccines on Tuesday, Feb. 23, has been etched in stone, he said 100,000 doses of those will go to the Philippine military.
The delivery of the said supply is expected to be delayed, however, following China's decision to await first the FDA's issuance of an emergency use authorization (EUA).
The FDA has already granted EUA to the vaccines of Pfizer and AstraZeneca, but the shipment of the former under the COVAX Facility has been delayed as well due to the lack then of an indemnification agreement.
ECONOMIC WORKERS FIRST?
When Sinovac's vaccine arrives, Domingo told ABS-CBN News that the Department of Health will set the prioritization for its recipients, excluding health workers.
Roque said that the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (iNITAG) will meet later Monday to tackle a possible revision in the priority list of recipients for the Sinovac jabs.
“Siguro, kinakailangan nilang baguhin muna iyong ating list of priorities,” he said in a separate briefing.
(Perhaps, they need to first change our list of priorities.)
“Baka mauna na iyong ating tinatawag na economic frontliners na kasama po ng ating kasundaluhan.”
(Our so-called economic frontliners might go first with our military.)
Economic frontliners include those who continued to work during last year’s enhance community quarantine, the strictest of 4 lockdown levels in the country, Roque said.
Establishments like supermarkets, groceries, drugstores, and other service-oriented centers were allowed to operate during the ECQ.
The DOH has yet to respond to questions on whether it will follow the FDA’s recommendation and what will happen if Sinovac’s vaccines arrive first in the country.
Nearly 15,000 health workers in the Philippines have been infected with COVID-19, of whom, 249 were battling the disease, as of Feb. 20.
At the peak of the outbreak, health workers comprised 20% of infected individuals in the country. It has since gone down to 3%, although health workers remain among those most exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
Meanwhile, recipients of the 100,000 doses from Sinovac's donation intended for the Department of National Defense and its bureaus will be administered by the Veterans Medical Center and V. Luna Medical Center, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
He clarified that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will not received any of those.
"Two doses kasi, kaya 50,000 lang ang kaya ng 100K. Tama lang sa DND personnel and their families," said Lorenzana.
(Since it requires two doses, only 50,000 recipients can avail of the 100,000 doses. It's just right for DND personnel and their families.)
The defense chief earlier expressed willingness to be inoculated with Sinovac's vaccine. But, upon learning that he doesn't fall within the recommended age range of recipients, he said he would wait for the next vaccine instead.
- With reports from Jamaine Punzalan and Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News