MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Health said on Friday it was studying the possibility of extending the expiry dates of some COVID-19 vaccines to allow various areas to use up their existing inventory.
Authorities are "finalizing" the report on expiring COVID-19 shots, said DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje.
"Tinitingnan natin saan ito at ano iyong mga kadahilanan at hindi nai-jab ito," said Cabotaje, chairperson of the National Vaccination Operations Center.
(We are looking at where these vaccines are and the reasons that they were not jabbed.)
"We are also looking at the possibility of trying to extend shelf life, tinitingnan natin iyong mga batch number," she said in a televised public briefing.
(We are looking at the batch numbers.)
Cabotaje noted Canada extended the shelf life of a number of COVID-19 shots "based on some stability data."
The extension covered 2 lots of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine by 30 days, reports said.
Video courtesy of PTV
Around 14,000 AstraZeneca doses recently expired in Negros Occidental and were not used in its vaccination drive.
"Hindi na nagamit 'yun sa rollout sa vaccination day. Ang iba kasing LGU hindi na tinanggap 'yun kasi may ibang mga available na na bakuna," said Dr. Caludelia Pabillo, who is in charge of vaccine distribution there.
(That was not used on vaccination day because some LGUs did not accept them as there were other available vaccines.)
"They preferred to use other vaccines para mahikayat ang mga tao na magpabakuna (to encourage people to get inoculated)."
The DOH is investigating who is liable for the incident, Cabotaje said.
But she noted, "We expect some [vaccine] wastage in big campaigns."
"We’ll just be more circumspect… Paiigtingin po natin ang ating pagmo-monitor although halos araw-araw na natin pinagsasabihan sila," she added.
(We will intensify our monitoring, although we have been reminding them almost everyday.)
The doses were "stored with defined storage guidelines" in the event these will still be used, said Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.
"We have coordinated with the manufacturers kung magkakaroon sila ng pag-apply ng extension of shelf life for these vaccines. For now these 14,000 doses are stored with defined storage guidelines para hindi masira ang bakuna," she told reporters.
(We have coordinated with the manufacturers if they will apply to extend the shelf life of these vaccines. For now these 14,000 doses are stored with defined storage guidelines so it won't be ruined.)
Vergeire urged local governments to accept near-expiry vaccines as these would still be effective.
"Gusto lang namin makiusap sa ating (We just want to appeal to our) local governments, let’s try to consider these vaccines are very valuable. These are critical commodities at this time of the pandemic," she said.
"'Pag binigyan po namin kayo, hindi po kami magbibigay ng expired na. Ang binigay sa inyo ay near expiry which still can be used."
(We won't give you expired vaccines. What we gave was near expiry which still can be used.)
The Philippines has fully vaccinated at least 37.3 million of its 109 million population against COVID-19.
It has yet to detect any case of the newly discovered Omicron coronavirus variant.
Classified by the World Health Organization as a "variant of concern," Omicron has sparked global concern and border closures.
— With a report from Reuters