MANILA (UPDATED) — The Philippine vaccine expert panel recommends for the elderly the COVID-19 vaccine from Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech, the group's head said on Wednesday, after an initial advice from the country's drug regulator.
The Food and Drug Administration earlier only recommended the use of Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine for people aged 18 to 59 because its clinical trials lacked elderly participants.
However, the vaccine expert panel took a look back at the vaccine's trial data and found that it had few adverse effects, including pain on the injection site, headache and flu-like symptoms, said the group's head Dr. Nina Gloriani.
China and Indonesia have also started using CoronaVac for their senior citizens. The antibodies that the elderly produced are "almost the same" as the antibodies of 18 to 59-year-olds, she said.
“Ang maganda doon sa datos na nakita namin ay nakakaprotekta rin siya sa mga matatanda na hindi sila nagkaroon ng severe COVID,” Gloriani said in a televised public briefing.
(What is good about the data we saw is it also protect the elderly from severe COVID.)
“Ang alam ko po ay maglalabas na rin soon ang FDA ng announcement about this. Ang vaccine expert panel po ay nakapagrekomenda na na puwede siyang gamitin sa senior citizens,” she added.
(From what I know the FDA will soon release an announcement about this. The vaccine expert panel has recommended that it can be used for senior citizens.)
Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the expert panel backed CoronaVac's rollout to senior citizens.
The panel "thoroughly discussed the matter amid the current vaccine supply in the country and we hope that this would respond/address the present demand of vaccines," he said in a statement.
Gloriani, 67, has received 2 doses of the Sinovac vaccine. She said she signed a waiver to get the shots.
Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, she said, can also be used by the elderly.
The Philippines has received 2 million Sinovac doses and used up all of its 525,600 shots of Britain's AstraZeneca vaccine.
Government expects to receive in April 1.5 million more Sinovac shots and 500,000 Sputnik V jabs, vaccine "czar" Carlito Galvez Jr said on Tuesday.
Among the hardest-hit in Asia by the pandemic, the Philippines aim to vaccinate up to 70 million people or two-thirds of its population this year.
On top of the priority list are health workers, followed by the elderly, people with health risks, economic frontliners, and indigents.
A recent surge in infections has pushed the country's total COVID-19 cases to 812,760, of which 152,562 were active as of Tuesday.
“In view of the increase [of cases]… importante po na matunugan natin ito sa pagbabakuna. Of course isa lang siya (Sinovac), pero and’yan na iyan so gamitin na po kung anong meron tayo,” said Gloriani.
(In view of the increase, it is important that we address this through our vaccination. Of course, Sinovac is just one vaccine, but it's already there, so use it if we have it.)