Four people were reported feeling unwell after receiving the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center Monday, reports said Monday, but two have been discharged and two are still being monitored.
This as the Philippines officially started its vaccine rollout afte the arrival of 600,000 CoronaVac vaccines Sunday.
One report heard nationwide on Super Radyo dzBB, said one of them was a VMMC staff who developed rashes and redness after vaccination. But the employee has since been discharged.
A male staff of the Department of National Defense was also taken by an ambulance after having a headache and high blood pressure while a female DND personnel also experienced rashes.
The last vaccine recipient, whose name was not immediately available, reported feeling unwell and had palpitations.
The attending physician, also unidentified, said the reported symptoms could be considered mild side effects only if they were proven to have been caused by the Sinovac shot.
There was no immediately available comment from the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
But Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian has guaranteed for the “efficacy and effectiveness” of the Sinovac vaccine because he said it had been tried and tested by millions of people in China and in several countries around the world.
Huang made this assurance following the arrival of the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines as part of the China’s donation to the Philippines to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“Tens of millions of people in China and a host of countries have been inoculated with Chinese vaccines, and their efficacy and effectiveness have been well tested and proven,” Huang posted in his Facebook account.
The Chinese ambassador said he was delighted to join the turnover ceremony with no less than President Rodrigo Duterte in attendance to welcome the vaccine donations that arrived at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City at around 4:10 pm onboard a Chinese military aircraft Xi’an Y-20.
“I would like to express my sincere thanks to President Duterte for gracing this ceremony. My special thanks go to the teams from both sides who have been working round the clock to make it happen,” Huang said.
The Chinese envoy expressed confidence that the Philippines would be able to beat the virus and return to normal life in earnest.
The Chinese-made vaccine is the first anti-COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in the country.
“The path towards vaccination in the face of the pandemic has now opened up for the Philippines! With the arrival of the donated Sinovac vaccines, the country will start its vaccine rollout (yesterday),” Huang said, noting that the Sinovac vaccines are now being distributed to different hospitals and set for mass inoculation as soon as it reaches the target facilities.
“Today’s kickoff of the mass vaccination program is an assurance that the relationship between our two countries will always find new channels of cooperation that will lead to mutual progress,” he added.
The Philippines is also expecting the shipment of 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Manila soon.
The AstraZeneca vaccines are part of the first tranche of the more than 40 million allocated to the Philippines by the COVAX facility, a global collaboration that hastens the development, manufacture, and equitable distribution of vaccines to fight the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said Filipinos should refrain from anticipating COVID-19 shots from US-based Pfizer anytime soon.
A negotiation for the Philippines to get Pfizer's jabs is "ongoing", including an indemnity agreement that protects vaccine makers from suit in case of adverse effects, Galvez said.
He added: "We are waiting for them because we have long informed them of our indemnity agreement. The ball is in their court.
"The supply of Pfizer is really in demand. We should not expect that Pfizer will arrive soon. Almost all countries get Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.”
The Philippines will get Pfizer shots from vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility in the second quarter of the year. Shots that the country will buy from Pfizer could arrive in the third or fourth quarter, said Galvez.
COVAX was supposed to send 117,000 Pfizer doses in mid-February, but the lack of an indemnification agreement delayed their arrival indefinitely.
Pfizer did not mention its requirement of this deal in initial negotiations, and only informed Philippine officials of this in mid-February, said Galvez.
"That's why we were surprised when they said we need to have an annex.
They want some provisions that we cannot do, considering that this is only our protection just in case there is gross negligence.,” he said.
Last week, President Duterte signed a law that would set up an indemnification fund to compensate those who would suffer from adverse vaccine effects.
Through this law, Pfizer would be "fully immune" against any litigation because the Philippine government would take care of the indemnification of people who experience adverse effects from the vaccine, said Galvez.
"We are very proud of that law but we cannot give any more because... We have given everything that pharmaceutical groups want,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
He added: “We expect that Pfizer will still arrive, but if our law is not enough, we have done the best that we could. Secretary Galvez is ensuring that we will have enough vaccines for all Filipinos.”
One more million Sinovac shots and 3.5 million doses from Britain's AstraZeneca are expected to arrive this month, said Galvez. This means the Philippines will have 5.1 million jabs by the end of March, he said.
Health workers are on top of the priority in the vaccine distribution.
Some medical frontliners on Monday received Sinovac jabs. Galvez, Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo, and Philippine General Hospital chief Dr. Gerardo Legaspi were also among the first to get vaccinated.
In a related development, the Philippines is eyeing to give COVID-19 vaccines to at least 1.4 million health workers in a month’s time, Galvez said.
The only available COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines so far is made by Sinovac which has been issued emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration last February 22.
Based on Philippine FDA evaluation, Sinovac has an efficacy rate of 65 percent to 91 percent among healthy individuals aged 18 to 59.
The Philippine FDA, however, recommended against the use of Sinovac on health workers since its efficacy rate only reached 50.4 percent on that group.
The Department of Health and the vaccine experts panel eventually recommended use of Sinovac on health workers, saying it would be beneficial and safe for them.
Based on data reviewed by the DOH and VEP, Sinovac's efficacy rate against moderate COVID-19 symptoms is 78 percent and 100 percent against severe COVID-19 symptoms.
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