Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine safe for health workers, elderly, says GM

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2021 10:49 AM | Updated as of Feb 24 2021 11:01 AM

A staff member works during a media tour of a new factory built to produce a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at Sinovac, one of 11 Chinese companies approved to carry out clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines, in Beijing on September 24, 2020. Wang Zhao, AFP

MANILA - Although the company respects the Philippine regulator's recommendation, the general manager of Sinovac Biotech said Wednesday their COVID-19 vaccine is effective for health workers and the elderly.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, but said it is not recommended for health workers who may be exposed to patients with the disease.

"We respect any announcement made by any government and their decision. I think that would be the balancing of whether the benefit overweigh the risk because this approval is under an emergency, so the research is still ongoing," Sinovac Biotech General Manager Helen Yang told ANC's Headstart.

"I think more countries are sharing their view that the vaccine should be used on healthcare workers and elderlies. I think more data are coming out to be shared with the public," she said.

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FDA Director General Eric Domingo earlier said SinoVac 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," he said in a Laging Handa briefing. 

Yang said she was not in the meeting with the FDA after the announcement personally, but she believes Sinovac would still recommend its vaccine for the health workers and the elderly.

"I think generally, Sinovac would recommend not only for the Philippines but also for other countries using our vaccines that all products should be used among healthcare workers and the elderly," she said.

"We think those are the people who should be protected at the high priority," she added in a later part of the interview when asked if she would recommend the vaccine for frontliners and the elderly.

She said it would be difficult to say whether or not the company was treated or viewed fairly in the Philippines, but she maintains that Sinovac respects the opinion of experts from different governments.

"We’re just trying to explain about the backgrounds and of course, the decision is still to be made by the government," she said.

"I think the FDA worked very hard to collect and review the data, similar to any FDA in other countries who are contributing…they want to do their best to protect their own people in order to use the vaccine to lower down the cases and we are sharing the same goal. We do appreciate everyone who are contributing to getting the access of vaccines against COVID in these difficult times," she added.

Following FDA’s grant of emergency use approval, the vaccine will be evaluated by the National Immunization Technical Group regarding inoculation procedure, which will include recipients of the jab, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

“The NITAG will now give its recommendations to the IATF as far as how the inoculation will roll out using that specific brand,” he told Headstart in a separate interview.

“For medical and health frontliners, ayaw kong pangunahan ano ang magiging (I don’t want to presume the) decision ng (of) NITAG because these are technical experts. But you will also hear statements I believe even from medical doctors themselves, many of them agree it should be given or made optional for health frontliners.” 

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The Philippines is expecting 600,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine as a donation from the Chinese government. It was originally scheduled for delivery on February 23.

Yang said the company is now managing the procedure of delivery and the coronavirus shots will arrive "soon."