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Philippines OK’s emergency use for Moderna

THE PHILIPPINE Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday approved the emergency use of Moderna, Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine.

The benefits of using the vaccine “outweigh the known and potential risks,” FDA Director General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo told an online news briefing.

The drug is 94% effective against the coronavirus, he said, citing phase three clinical trials.

Moderna filed an application for emergency use on April 26 through Zuellig Pharma Corp., the local distributor and importer of its vaccine.

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is the seventh to be approved for emergency use by the Philippines after those made by Pfizer, Inc., China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., AstraZeneca Plc, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Johnson & Johnson, Inc. and India’s Bharat Biotech.

Potential side effects from the Moderna vaccine were “mild and transient, similar to common reactions.”

US Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez last month said the Philippines would take delivery of about 20,000 doses of the vaccine made by Moderna. The first batch of Moderna vaccines are expected to arrive by mid-June.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 5,685 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 1.07 million.

The death toll rose by 178 to 17,800, while recoveries increased by 8,961 to 993,042, it said in a bulletin.

There were 62,713 active cases, 1.2% of which were critical, 94.4% were mild, 1.8% did not show symptoms, 1.6% were severe and 1.02% were moderate.

The agency traced the low tally to fewer samples processed by laboratories at the weekend.

DoH said 22 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 17 of which were tagged as recoveries. It added that 112 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Five laboratories failed to submit data on May 5.

About 11.3 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of May 3, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 155 million and killed 3.2 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 132.5 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said the agency wants travelers to be tested for the coronavirus seven or eight days upon arrival, when viral load is high.

Under current protocols, inbound travelers must get swabbed on the fifth day of their quarantine.

Ms. Vergeire told an online news briefing six passengers from India who arrived before the travel ban had tested positive for coronavirus.

The samples of the six passengers out of 110 passengers who got tested had been sent for genome sequencing. Six more passengers had not been found.

The Philippines imposed a 16-day travel ban on India starting on April 29 due to a surge in cases there.

Experts have said new variants including a “double mutant” first detected in India had caused the spike in cases there, Reuters reported last month.

The Philippines targets to vaccinate millions of residents in Manila, the capital and nearby cities and provinces this year as vaccine supply issues hinder it from achieving herd immunity for the entire country, the presidential palace said on Tuesday.

The government expects herd immunity in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan by November, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said.

The government earlier said it was seeking to vaccinate as many as 70 million Filipinos this year.

Mr. Galvez earlier said the country needed to inoculate three million people weekly to achieve herd immunity this year.

The country needs to get at least 15 million vaccines every month to achieve the goal, he said at a televised meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday night.

The government has set up 5,000 vaccination sites that can give 100 shots a day, a major requirement to achieve herd immunity, he said. He added that the country needs to have as many as 50,000 vaccinators.

Mr. Galvez said the country is set to take delivery of about 3.3 million doses of vaccines monthly starting June to allow the government to vaccinate at least 120,000 Filipinos daily.

About 92% of the 4.4 million vaccines in the country have been sent out, Mr. Galvez said. About 1.9 million vaccines have been injected.

Mr. Galvez said the vaccines from India might get delayed due to the crisis there, where thousands die daily amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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