The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for the country, which now has a bulletin board of 926,052 coronavirus infections and 15,819 deaths to continue using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after experts reviewed it amid blood clot reports.
FDA Director-General Eric Domingo has written Health Secretary Francisco Duque III where he reiterated that the benefit outweighed the risk and “we should continue using the vaccine.”
Domingo said the World Health Organization, Vaccine Expert Panel, and the Adverse Events Committee were “unanimous” in saying that the AstraZeneca vaccine’s overall benefit outweighed the known and potential risks.
“Here in the Philippines, our adverse events committee has not seen similar cases but in Europe and other parts of the world, it was seen that it is very rare,” said Domingo, adding the rare blood clots occurred in about one out of one million recipients.
Over a million people in the Philippines have received either the Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine as of April 13.
Last week, the Philippines temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccine on people younger than 60 upon the recommendation of the FDA as a precautionary measure following reports of rare blood clots in recipients overseas.
At the same time, we share the concern of many as regards the data from the Department of Health which showed that 66 percent of the country’s intensive care unit beds are utilized; 51 percent of the isolation beds are utilized; 55 percent of the ward beds are utilized, and 47 percent of the mechanical ventilators are utilized.
In Metro Manila, 85 of the ICU beds are utilized; 65 percent of the isolation beds are utilized; 66 percent of the ward beds are utilized, and 62 percent of the ventilators are utilized.
These suggest a picture that many are still beneath the claws of the coronavirus disease, which is raising a big challenge to both the authorities and the population.
After all, it is not just the government and the health authorities that must respond to the challenge. The population must cooperate with the authorities in seeing to it that basic health protocols are followed.
We find uplifting reports that the United States Agency for International Development will provide P170 million ($3.5 million) to support the Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law made the announcement on the new assistance during a visit to a vaccination site in Caloocan City with Secretary Duque, Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan, USAID Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II, and other US and Philippine officials.
This new assistance, which brings total US government support for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response to nearly P1.3 billion ($27 million), will strengthen the country’s health system and vaccine delivery efforts.
In addition, the US government recently announced a P194 billion ($4 billion) commitment to support the COVAX facility, a global initiative to support early vaccine access for 92 countries, including the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the Office of Civil Defense said it had distributed 97,000 rapid antigen kits it has procured to 45 hospitals, local government units, and agencies in the described “NCR Plus” bubble – the national capital region and the provinces of Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and Bulacan.
Resolution 108 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) authorized the OCD to utilize its quick response fund to procure the said test kits.
“The Office of the Civil Defense is hereby authorized to procure using their Quick Response Fund under the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management or such other available funds, an initial five hundred thousand (500,000) pieces of any of the following Rapid Antigen Test Kits authorized by the Food and Drug Administration,” the resolution added.
The procured Abbott Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid antigen test devices, delivered in two batches, are stored in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Another page of good news is that the Philippines will possibly have its own fill-finish facilities for vaccine manufacturing by 2022, an official from the Department of Science and Technology said.
DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevara said two out of the six local firms that are in talks with the government for vaccine manufacturing are moving forward with their plans “quickly and aggressively.”
“If they pursue what we think are their plans based on what they have told us, parang kakayanin nilang mag-umpisang mag-produce ng vaccine by late 2022 (it looks like they can start producing vaccines by late 2022),” she said in a health department briefing.
“If they continue being aggressive, based on our talks with them, they can manage to start by end of 2022,” she added.
We have our eyes on the screen.