MANILA — The World Health Organization's approval of the COVID-19 shot from Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech would boost confidence in the jab that accounts for the bulk of the Philippine coronavirus vaccine supply, Malacañang said Wednesday.
The UN health agency signed off on the emergency use of Sinovac's 2-dose vaccine CoronaVac. It is the second Chinese jab to receive the WHO's green light after the COVID-19 shot from state firm Sinopharm.
"Nagagalak po ako sa balitang 'yan dahil 'yan po ay siguradong makaka-boost ng kumpyansa sa bakuna dahil nadagdagan po 'yong mga institusyon na nagsabi na ligtas at epektibo ang Sinovac na pinakamaraming ginagamit natin sa Pilipinas," Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a media interview.
(I am happy with that news because it will surely boost confidence in the vaccine now that more institutions said Sinovac, which is most used in the Philippines, is safe and effective.)
The Philippines has taken delivery of some 8.329 million COVID-19 shots, about 4.5 million doses of which are CoronaVac.
Most Filipinos prefer the US as source of coronavirus vaccines, according to a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations. The same poll showed that Sinovac is the most preferred COVID-19 vaccine brand, followed by US-based Pfizer-BioNTech.
WHO granted emergency use listing to the Sinovac jab "after being found to be safe, effective, and quality-assured," said agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"The easy storage requirements of CoronaVac make it very suitable for low-resource settings," he told a press conference.
"It's now crucial to get these life-saving tools to the people that need them quickly."
The WHO said the emergency use listing (EUL) gives countries, funders, procuring agencies and communities assurance that the vaccine has met international standards.
The organization has also given EUL status to vaccines being made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and the AstraZeneca jab being produced in India, South Korea and the EU, which it counts separately.
WHO's listing paves the way for countries worldwide to approve and import a vaccine for distribution quickly, especially those states without an international-standard regulator of their own.
It also opens the door for the jabs to enter the COVAX global vaccine-sharing facility, which aims to provide equitable access to doses around the world, particularly in poorer countries.
Currently only AstraZeneca and some Pfizer jabs are flowing through the scheme.
"The world desperately needs multiple COVID-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe," said Mariangela Simao, the WHO's assistant director general for access to health products.
"We urge manufacturers to participate in the COVAX facility, share their know-how and data and contribute to bringing the pandemic under control."
"WHO recommends the vaccine for use in adults 18 years and older, in a two-dose schedule with a spacing of two to four weeks," the WHO said in a statement.
"Vaccine efficacy results showed that the vaccine prevented symptomatic disease in 51 percent of those vaccinated and prevented severe COVID-19 and hospitalization in 100 percent of the studied population."
The Sinovac vaccine contains an inactivated form of coronavirus that cannot cause the disease. It also has a substance that helps strengthen the immune response to the vaccine.
When given the shot, the immune system identifies the inactivated virus as foreign and makes antibodies against it, which will then recognize the active virus and defend the body against it.
Few people aged over 60 took part in the clinical trial of Sinovac's jab.
However, the WHO said there should be no upper age limit on the vaccine as there is "no reason to believe it has a different safety profile" in older generations.
The Sinovac jab is already in use in 22 territories around the world, according to an Agence France-Presse count.
Apart from China, the countries using Sinovac include Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.
Chen Xu, China's ambassador in Geneva, said CoronaVac's EUL status expanded the number of global tools to fight the pandemic.
"China will continue to work with the international community to promote the accessibility and affordability of COVID-19 vaccines especially in (the) developing world," he said in a tweet.
– With a report from Agence France-Presse