MANILA – The interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) will be meeting to discuss changes in the priority list for Covid-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discouraged its use for healthcare workers and the elderly due to its low efficacy rate, Malacañang said Monday.
Despite discouraging Sinovac vaccines for healthcare workers and the elderly, the FDA granted Sinovac vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA) in time for its expected delivery this week.
In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he expects the priority list to place uniformed personnel and economic front-liners first and second in line in the government’s vaccination program.
Economic front-liners, he said, refer to workers in industries that were allowed to continue operations even under the most stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) quarantine classification.
Currently, healthcare workers and senior citizens aged 60 and above are first and second in line, respectively in the priority list.
“The NITAG has to meet and for purposes of Sinovac, they will have to amend their order of priority because obviously it cannot be given to healthcare workers and it cannot be given to senior citizens. I anticipate it will be first given to the Armed Forces and to the economic front-liners before we go to the indigents,” he said.
Roque earlier announced that a total of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines are set to arrive in the country this week.
Of this amount, 100,000 doses will be donated to the Department of National Defense while the remaining 500,000 doses will be used for front-liners.
“Kung hindi maibibigay sa seniors at healthcare workers, napakadami naman pong mga critical economic front-liners na mabibigyan at siyempre kung maaprubahan nga at magkaroon na ng supply agreement pupuwede natin ituluy-tuloy at bakunahan na ang ating mga mahihirap (If we can’t give the vaccine to seniors and health care workers, there are many critical economic front-liners who will be given doses and of course if we secure a supply agreement, we can eventually vaccinate indigents),” he added.
Not low quality
Amid concerns that Sinovac vaccines has a lower efficacy rate compared to other vaccines, Roque assured the public that the vaccine standards are publicly accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“It is not a low-quality vaccine. It is accepted under standards arrived at by the WHO itself. It is a guarantee na yung mga nabakunahan ay hindi po mamatay dahil sa Covid-19. It is a guarantee na kung ika’y tamaan man mild o asymptomatic ka lamang (that those who get vaccinated won’t die due to Covid-19. It is a guarantee that if you get infected it will only be mild or asymptomatic),” he said.
Citing healthcare experts, Roque said any vaccine, regardless of brand, is welcome as long as it could prevent deaths and serious illnesses due to Covid-19.
“We are recommending it because what we want is to avoid deaths and serious illnesses. Kaya po natin gagamitin po ‘yan (That’s why we’re using it) because it’s better than no protection,” he added.
Meanwhile, Roque said the government would not need to wait for the Congress to pass the proposed law mandating an indemnification fund before the government’s immunization drive using Sinovac vaccines kicks off.
Sinovac vaccines, he said, do not contain indemnification clauses in its deal with the Philippines.
“Ang inaantay talaga natin pagdating ng bakuna (We’re only waiting for the vaccines to arrive),” he said.
He, however, said the indemnification fund law will apply to all vaccines.
“There’s a law being passed by Congress and of course the law is applicable to all vaccines. There will be an indemnity fund and in case of side effects, there is no obligation on the part of the claimant to prove fault or negligence they can recover from the PHP500-million indemnification fund,” he said. (PNA)