MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) has stopped distributing COVID vaccines after the country’s government-procured and donated stocks were depleted, an official said on Tuesday.
Health Assistant Secretary Beverly Ho said the government completed administering the bivalent COVID-19 jabs donated by Lithuania last August.
The DOH previously said the government does not plan to purchase a new batch of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines.
“Kami sa DOH program, the last we rolled out was bivalent vaccines, which were just… a little less than 400,000, and that’s already consumed,” Ho told the House Committee on Public Order and Safety during a hearing on Tuesday.
“Mayroon silang market authorization, pero it is already dependent on whether the private sector will import it,” she added.
“Because the (monovalent) vaccines are expiring or have expired and have not gotten extension permits, then technically, no one can vaccinate anyone using those vaccines."
Some 78.4 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against COVID, and around 23.8 million received at least one booster.
COVID VACCINE-ASSOCIATED DEATHS
DOH has monitored 9 COVID vaccine-associated deaths in the Philippines out of the over 78 million individuals inoculated, said Dr. Alethea de Guzman, director at the DOH's Epidemiology Bureau.
"Ibig sabihin, siyam lang doon sa 78 million… ‘yung sigurado tayo na dahil sa bakuna ‘yung dahilan ng pagkamatay nila… Half of these deaths were because of anaphylactic reactions, meaning sudden and very severe allergic reactions,” de Guzman told a House panel.
The DOH also explained that while more deaths were reported following COVID immunization, not all could immediately be associated with the vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that of the 112,264 reported adverse events following immunization, 10,583 were considered serious, including 2,801 deaths.
"They are reported data. Ibang process ang causality assessment. Meaning, from the reports, ang ikinamatay ba niya ay bakuna o nakagat siya ng aso, o nabangga siya. Because that report does not differentiate it,” Ho said.
The DOH said data also showed a huge drop in deaths due to COVID-19 infection after the vaccination rollout.
"At the start of the pandemic, our case fatality rate for healthcare workers was 6 percent, and the case fatality rate for the elderly population was 31 percent. Ibig sabihin, sa nakakatanda, 3 out of 10 na nagka-COVID namamatay," Ho said.
"But after we were able to roll out our program, the case fatality rate for the elderly population was down to around 4 percent. So ang laki ng ibinaba," she said.
"We do know that this is a result not simply of the rollout of the vaccination program, but also because the health sector was able to put mechanisms in place… so we can accommodate as much patients,” the official added.
The official said that the government's programs during the pandemic were all evidence-based and were done in consultation with experts.