The country’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac is expected to arrive Sunday, but their rollout will have to wait until the allocation of the 600,000 doses is firmed up, Malacañang said Thursday.
“We expect the Sinovac vaccines to arrive this coming Sunday so we are all excited,” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque said during a press briefing aired on state television. He thanked China and Sinovac for the donation.
Medical frontliners will remain on top of the priority list of those to be vaccinated, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), citing varied efficacy rates, said the Sinovac vaccine is not recommended for use by them or the elderly.
Aside from the Sinovac shipment, 10,000 doses of a vaccine developed by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, will arrive soon, having been approved for “compassionate use” for President Rodrigo Duterte’s security detail.
Doses from AstraZeneca will arrive in March, Roque said.
The delivery of the Sinovac vaccines was delayed a few days due to the lack of regulatory approval.
Roque touted the safety and efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine, however, saying that many world leaders have taken it.
He added that the government has done everything to ensure the arrival of Western vaccine brands, including the passage of a proposed indemnity law sought by the drug manufacturers.
The Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) said Thursday that specific details as to the allocation and subsequent rollout of the 600,000 donated Sinovac doses are still being evaluated pending the official recommendation of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) and its approval by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
The Department of National Defense earlier said that out of the 600,000 doses, 100,000 will go to its employees and members of the military.
The FDA said Thursday that while it did not recommend Sinovac for frontline health workers, those who wished to take it could do so.
The FDA caveats have muddled the rollout of vaccines, since frontline workers in health care facilities were supposed to be first in line for inoculation.
In a briefing, Roque said the order in which people are vaccinated had to be adjusted.
“For the purposes of Sinovac, ...the order of priority will have to be amended because obviously it cannot be given to health care workers and it cannot be given to senior citizens. I anticipate it will be first given to the Armed Forces and to the economic frontliners before we go to the indigents. But we are only talking of 600,000. So, I think we will prioritize the military for the 100,000 and the economic frontliners for [the rest].”
Roque explained that economic frontliners would include farmers, miners, fishermen, transport workers and those working in export-oriented industries and business process outsourcing companies.
Meanwhile, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) said it is ready to receive any brand of coronavirus vaccine.
“Whatever vaccine will arrive first, we will accept it, and our basis for receiving it is the EUA [emergency use authorization] provided by our FDA),” said hospital director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi.
“We all know that if the FDA gives any vaccine the EUA, the safety and efficacy are assured,” he added.
Legaspi said the PGH has prepared the infrastructure and logistical requirements for vaccines.
The hospital director earlier reported that 94 percent of PGH personnel surveyed expressed willingness to get vaccinated.
At the time the survey was taken, however, the hospital staff had the Pfizer vaccine in mind, since this was supposed to be the first shipment.
Legaspi also allayed fears that the Sinovac jab offers little to no protection for health workers, stressing that all vaccines approved by the FDA so far—Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac—offer 100 percent protection against severe COVID-19.
A nurses’ group on Thursday said a survey among their members found that while most of them are willing to receive COVID-19 vaccine, they want one that has gone through Phase 3 of the clinical trials and peer review.
Maristela Abenojar, president of Filipino Nurses United, said 76.5 percent or 494 of their 646 respondents want to be administered coronavirus shots.
Abenojar said their survey did not ask which brand of vaccine the nurses prefer to receive.