Vaccination protocol stays, says DOH after death of health worker post-inoculation

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 18 2021 12:38 PM | Updated as of Mar 18 2021 05:47 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health on Thursday said it won’t be changing its vaccination protocol after a health worker died from COVID-19 more than a week after she was vaccinated.

“At this point in time there are no changes to our protocol,” said Dr. Beverly Ho, director of the Health Promotion Bureau and Disease Prevention and Control Bureau of the DOH, a day after the DOH announced that its expert committee on adverse events concluded that the COVID-19 vaccine had nothing to do with the death of the health worker.

The health worker, a 47-year-old woman who had COVID-19 in 2020, was vaccinated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine on March 4. According to the National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee (NAEFIC), her comorbidities were diabetes, hypertension and bronchial asthma.

Dr. Rommel Lobo, vice chair of the NAEFIC, said the woman tested positive again for COVID-19 through a PCR test on February 22 but tested negative the day after. Because of this, the positive test on February 22 was deemed remnants of her infection last year. 

Lobo said the woman did not have any symptoms when she was vaccinated on March 4. But on March 8, she tested positive for COVID-19. 

"She was advised admission but she refused,” he said.

On March 10, the health worker was admitted to the hospital.

“Unfortunately she died on March 13 of COVID-19 infection,” Lobo said.

Experts earlier said people who were infected with COVID-19 must wait 2 to 3 months before getting vaccinated. Lobo said it was not a problem for the health worker since she was infected last year and it had already been at least 6 months. 

“The patient might have been exposed to an individual she had encountered and then she might be incubating or having asymptomatic symptoms at the time that she was vaccinated,” Lobo said.

In a separate phone interview with ABS-CBN News, Lobo said the woman might have gotten sick from a different strain, which was why she was re-infected even after surviving COVID the year before. However, he said it would be hard to check if this was the case.

Ho said that they won’t do COVID-19 testing prior to vaccination as part of the screening, as is the case in other countries.

Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo said they had already informed Sinovac about what happened.

“Yung Sinovac we also already informed them that we have 1 report of death of a patient who received the vaccine and later on developed COVID-19. We are asking them for information if there are similar cases that happened in other countries,” he said, adding that he does not consider the case unusual.

While there are still no vaccines proven to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, Domingo reminded the public that it takes time for antibodies to develop after being vaccinated. 

“Ang lagi nating paalala, pag kayo ay nabakunahan hindi po iyon magic na biglang hindi na po kayo magkaroon ng COVID (We always remind people that after you are vaccinate it’s not like magic that you will no longer have COVID). It takes time. You have to give your body time to develop immunity and resistance against the COVID-19 virus after a vaccine is injected into your body,” he said.

Lobo said this is why even for those vaccinated with 2 doses, they should still continue to follow physical distancing measures and other health protocols like wearing of face masks.

“Remember the vaccines are not 100% protective,” he said. “There is a certain percentage it may not protect you. But at least it will give you a certain protection from severe COVID or moderate COVID. Do not let your guard down.”

Data presented by the FDA showed that out of the 167,798 people vaccinated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac as of March 17 6p.m., 3,700 or 2.21% have so far experienced adverse events or side effects. Only 83 of those are considered serious and there is one case of death, referring to the 47-year-old female health worker. 

For AstraZeneca, of the 72,499 vaccinated, 3,715 or 5.19% adverse events following immunization were reported. So far, 54 of those were considered serious. Suspected adverse reactions for the two vaccines was at 3.11%. Domingo said this is within the accepted percentage since in clinical trials where AEFI monitoring is more pro-active, 20% to 30% report side effects such as mild pain in the injection site.

Vaccination protocol stays, says DOH after death of health worker post-inoculation 1
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