Video courtesy of Department of Health
MANILA — The delay in the arrival of additional AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines should not be a cause for concern as those who already received their 1st dose will still be able to get the 2nd dose on time, the Department of Health said Wednesday.
“There is this commitment from WHO. The doses will be delayed, but wala silang sinabing (but they did not say) it will take until the end of May,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.
The World Health Organization, a member of the COVAX Facility, said last Monday that their AstraZeneca vaccine shipment for the Philippines has been further delayed, and that it will be fewer than expected because of the global supply shortage.
Vergeire pointed out that AstraZeneca’s 2nd dose can be given by up to 12 weeks.
Under the emergency use authorization issued by the Food and Drug Administration for AstraZeneca, the 2nd dose can be given within 4 to 12 weeks after the first dose.
“It was stated in the studies - the longer the period between the first and the second dose for this specific vaccine, mas mataas yung nagiging (the higher the) efficacy. So I think this is better for us,” she said.
The health official said the government really had the objective of “maximizing” the interval of doses to “get more efficacy and talagang maibigay ang proteksyon sa ating kababayan (to really protect our citizens).”
She said those already vaccinated with the AstraZeneca product are already scheduled to receive their 2nd dose by the end of May and the 1st week of June.
The Philippines has so far received 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the bulk coming from Chinese company Sinovac. Only 525,600 were from AstraZeneca through the COVAX Facility.
AstraZeneca was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use of senior citizens.
And on Wednesday, the Philippine vaccine expert panel recommended for the elderly the Sinovac vaccine, after an initial advice from the FDA.
AstraZeneca has been favored by some groups over other vaccine brands due to its regular storage requirements and lower pricing.
Its longer interval for its 2nd dose also allows countries to vaccinate as many people without the need for immediately securing supplies for the 2nd dose.
The Philippines, which aims to inoculate up to 70 million Filipinos by the end of the year to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus, has been criticized for its slow rollout of vaccines as COVID-19 cases surge in Metro Manila and nearby areas.