DOH says there’s enough time for 2nd AstraZeneca dose before May expiration

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 12 2021 03:57 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2021 05:19 PM

Video courtesy of Department of Health

MANILA — The Department of Health assured the public on Friday that the government has enough time to administer the 2nd dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines before they expire in May, saying none of the vaccines on emergency use around the world have a lengthy shelf life. 

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Friday belied reports that the government was rushing to administer the AstraZeneca vaccines because they are about to expire. 

The country earlier received 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines and 600,000 doses from Sinovac.

“Wala pong bakunang dinevelop ngayon under the emergency use authority all over the world na may mahabang expiry date,” Vergeire said during a briefing.

(There is no vaccine that was just developed and under emergency use authority all over the world that has a long expiry date.)

The vaccines of AstraZeneca and Sinovac were both given emergency use authorization by the Philippine government. While they are still under development, they were already allowed for public use through the government program because of the emergency situation.

“Ang pinakamahabang expiry date ng mga bakuna sa ngayon 6 months dahil alam ng manufacturers evolving ang ating sitwasyon at maaaring baguhin o iayos ang mga bakunang inilagay nila dyan sa pinapagamit sa mga bansa kaya ganun lang ang expiry,” Vergeire said.

(The longest expiry date for vaccines for now is 6 months because the manufacturers know that the situation is evolving and that they may change or correct the vaccines that they are allowing countries to use. That’s why the expiry date is like that.)

“'Yung dumating po sa atin 'yan po ang expiry sa end ng May,” Vergeire said. 

“Pero nakaayos ang strategies natin because ang 2nd dose po n'yan you can give from 4 weeks to 12 weeks. So pasok na pasok ang ating schedule at aabot naman sa lahat ang pagbabakuna.”

(The ones that arrived here expire by the end of May. But our strategies are in place because the 2nd dose can be given from 4 to 12 weeks. So it is within our schedule and the doses can be used for vaccination.)

Vergeire said the only reason they are trying to hasten the vaccination process is to ensure that health workers are vaccinated.

As of March 10, 114,615 health workers have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Vergeire said the 114,615 vaccinated represent 11.2% of the over 1 million health workers on the government's priority list. 

Majority or 101,827 of those vaccinated received Sinovac jabs while 12,788 received doses from AstraZeneca.

“The top 3 regions with the highest coverage for Sinovac are the National Capital Region with 40.7%, CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region) at 13.9% and Region 12 at 11.7%,” Vergeire said.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca, which arrived a week later than Sinovac, is being used in the National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Region 1 and Region 4A.

The country hopes to vaccinate up to 70 million Filipinos by the end of the year in a bid to reach herd immunity. However, some have criticized the government for the seemingly slow rollout of vaccines. 

Vergeire said it is just slow because they have just started, adding the pace would be quicker eventually.

She said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III already raised the issue and they have been talking to vaccination units to hasten the process.