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240,000 Filipinos got vaccinated against coronavirus — FDA

MORE than 240,000 people had been vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Mar 17, 3.1% of whom experienced so-called adverse events, according to the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA Director-General Eric Domingo told an online news briefing on Thursday 167,798 of 240,297 people who got vaccinated  were given CoronaVac shots made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. He added that 72,499 were given vaccines made by AstraZeneca Plc.

Of the more than 7,000 patients who reported adverse events, 3,700 were given Sinovac vaccines. One patient died, 137 were serious and 7,331 were not serious, Mr. Domingo said.

The FDA chief said serious adverse-events refer to death or life-threatening situations, hospitalization, persistent disability, birth defects and any “medically important events or reactions.”

Any untoward medical events after vaccination, even though these had not been caused by the vaccine, are reported as an adverse event, said Rommel Crisenio M. Lobo, vice chairman of the National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee.

For example, a person who got bitten by a dog after getting injected with a vaccine should report it as an adverse event, he said.

Mr. Lobo said the 47-year-old woman who got vaccinated and later died from the coronavirus had comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension and bronchial asthma.

He added that the patient was vaccinated with CoronaVac on Mar. 4 and did not show any symptoms upon screening. She tested positive for the virus on Mar. 8 and was admitted to a hospital two days later.

“Unfortunately she died on Mar. 13 of COVID-19 infection, and the COVID-19 vaccine does not cause, as we all know, COVID-19 disease,” he told the briefing.

Health Director Beverly Lorraine C. Ho said there is no reason to suspend the vaccination program following the death.

“The vaccine is not what caused the death of the healthcare worker,” she said. “Second, as DoH and FDA have continued to emphasize, the benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh the risk of us getting COVID-19 particularly severe COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, 97% of coronavirus vaccines had been distributed to more than 950 vaccination sites nationwide, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said.

The Philippines started its vaccination drive on Mar. 1 using China’s donation of 600,000 vials of CoronaVac and 525,600 doses of the vaccines made by British drug maker AstraZeneca.

Mr. Roque said the private sector would only be allowed to buy vaccines directly from manufacturers once shots are authorized for “general use.”

He said private companies that seek to buy vaccines for their workers must enter into tripartite agreements with vaccine makers and the National Government.

“Even if they try to go straight to manufacturers, there is no vaccine approved for general use,” he said in Filipino.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) on Wednesday urged the government to allow companies to import vaccines without restrictions and taxes as the country faces a fresh spike in coronavirus infections.

PCCI also asked the FDA to fast-track its review of other vaccines for emergency use.

Mr. Roque said Sinovac would be asked to give additional data on CoronaVac’s efficacy before the vaccines could be given to the elderly.

“Steps will be taken to ask the local representatives of Sinovac to present additional data to the FDA so the emergency use approval issued by the FDA could be modified,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.”

He expressed support for the use of CoronaVac on the elderly since it was already being used on seniors in other countries.

Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia are among the countries that have allowed the use of CoronaVac for old people, Reuters reported. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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