MANILA (UPDATE) — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has ordered his agency to seek emergency use authorization for Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine so the country won't have to return a batch of donations from China, as the President had ordered following backlash over his inoculation with the brand.
Duque made the announcement following the arrival of AstraZeneca's 2 million vaccine doses in the country on Saturday.
"As soon as the EUA is issued by [the Food and Drug Administration], we will recommend to the President to no longer return the vaccines to China," the health official told reporters in a briefing.
An EUA would allow a vaccine under development to be used for the government vaccination program.
This also came as the World Health Organization (WHO) approved China's Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. It is the first vaccine developed by a non-Western country to win WHO backing.
DOH: WHO BACKING ON SINOPHARM 'A BIG HELP'
In a separate public briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the WHO's emergency use listing (EUL) could boost the vaccine's EUA in the country, as the jab has already been studied by international experts.
"Ito'y malaking tulong dahil na-review na siya ng mga eksperto ng WHO pagka mayroon siyang emergency use listing," said Vergeire.
(This is a big help because the WHO experts already reviewed the vaccine once it receives the EUL)
She also emphasized that Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine would still undergo regulatory screening from Philippine experts in order to see whether it qualifies for an EUA in the country.
"Pagpasok dito regular process pa rin, although, siyempre malaking karagdagang credibility ay yung nakapagbigay ang WHO ng EUL para sa bakuna na ito," she said.
"Pero it will still undergo the regulatory evaluation para makita natin kung talagang pwedeng bigyan ng EUA sa ating bansa."
(It will still undergo the regular process once it enters the country. Of course, it will have additional credibility because the WHO already gave it an EUL. It needs to undergo the process so we can know whether it qualifies for an EUA in the Philippines.)
President Rodrigo Duterte got inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine on Monday.
His aides earlier said the dose is covered by the compassionate use license the Food and Drug Administration issued in February for the Presidential Security Group. The permit is good for 10,000 doses.
The FDA had warned that the doctor who requested the compassionate use permit would be liable for any of the vaccine's side effects, as it is yet to be studied by Philippine experts.
Because of this, Duterte said on Wednesday that he already told the Chinese ambassador to "withdraw" the donation of 1,000 Sinopharm shots from China.
He did not say when the jabs were delivered.
In the Philippines, COVID-19 vaccine products from the following have been cleared for emergency use by the country's drug regulator: Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Gamaleya Institute, Sinovac Biotech, Johnson & Johnson, and Bharat Biotech.
— reports from Bianca Dava and Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News