MANILA, Philippines (Update 1: 6:09 p.m.) — The country’s Food and Drug Administration is now allowing the use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech on the elderly, the drug regulator’s chief said Wednesday.
“After considering the recommendations of the experts and the current situation of high COVID-19 transmission and limited available vaccines, the FDA is allowing the use of Sinovac on senior citizens,” FDA Director General Eric Domingo said in a text message to Philstar.com.
“Vaccination should be preceded by an evaluation of the person’s health status and exposure risk to assure that benefits of vaccination outweigh risks,” he added.
The emergency use authorization issued to CoronaVac last February cleared the jab for use only on “clinically healthy” individuals aged 18 to 59.
In a joint statement, the FDA and the Department of Health said that while current efficacy data for senior citizens from Phase 3 trials is insufficient, the benefits of using CoronaVac for this particular group outweighs the risks. The two agencies added more scientific data on use for the elderly may soon become available.
The decision of the FDA came after the government’s vaccine expert panel recommended the use of CoronaVac on senior citizens.
In a briefing Wednesday, Dr. Nina Gloriani, the panel's head, stressed that CoronaVac has a good safety profile and prevents severe COVID-19. Adverse events were mild to moderate.
The 67-year-old microbiologist also said she has received two doses of CoronaVac already. She signed a waiver before getting inoculated.
‘We can't delay vaccination’
Gloriani said the panel’s recommendation to use CoronaVac is in view of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases. She emphasized there is a need to use the available vaccine supplies the country has.
Aside from CoronaVac, the country is also rolling out the jabs developed by AstraZeneca. The FDA approved the use of AstraZeneca on the elderly.
However, several local governments are postponing the inoculation of senior citizens due to the shortage of available AstraZeneca shots.
“We are in a pandemic and we cannot delay vaccination because the vaccine we are waiting for has not arrived yet,” Gloriani said in Filipino.
In a briefing Wednesday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the delivery additional AstraZeneca jabs obtained through the COVAX Facility will be delayed.
“The doses will be delayed but they did not say it will take until the end of May,” she said.
The Philippines aims to inoculate up to 70 million people this year. So far, some 826,607 health workers, senior citizens and people with comorbidities have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
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