AT least 7,400 recipients of vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have experienced adverse effects following immunization, the Department of Health said yesterday.
The figure represents about 3.11 percent of the 240,297 individuals vaccinated from March 1 when the national immunization program started to March 17, said Eric Domingo, director general of the Food and Drug Administration.
He said 7,469 individuals reported adverse events following immunization (AEFIs), with 7,331 AEFIs considered as non-serious and 37, serious.
He said mild reactions are usually reported “within the week” while the serious one “are reported within 24 hours.”
One death has been reported among COVID-19 vaccine recipients but the cause of death is COVID-19, not the vaccine, the Department of Health said on Wednesday.
Domingo said broken down per vaccine brand, there are 167,798 recipients of CoronaVac vaccines from Sinovac Biotech, a private Chinese firm, 2.21 percent (3,700) reporting AEFIs. Of the 3,700 who reported reactions, 3,616 are non-serious and 83 serious. The lone fatality had the Sinovac vaccine.
Among the 72,499 recipients of vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc, a British-Swedish firm, 5.19 percent or 3,769 recipients had AEFIs broken down to 3,715 non-serious events and 54 serious.
According to Dr. Rommel Lobo, vice chairman of the National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee (NAEFIC), reports of adverse effects are “treated with utmost seriousness.”
Lobo said based on the committee’s evaluation, the 47-year old healthcare worker who received the Sinovac vaccine died from COVID-19.
“The causality assessment determines that the cause of death in this case is COVID-19.
Therefore, any discussion on the vaccine itself is not relevant to the conversation on this case,” said Lobo.
He said the patient underwent RT-PCR testing on February 21, which showed she was positive for COVID-19, and another RT-PCR test on February 23, with a negative result.
On March 4 when she received the vaccine, she showed no symptom during screening but declared she had hypertension, diabetes, and bronchial asthma in her health declaration form.
Come March 8, Lobo said, she tested positive for COVID-19, and was advised admission but initially refused.
Finally, she was admitted to a hospital on March 10 but died on March 13.
Asked where the infection could have come from since she was already vaccinated, Lobo said it is possible she already had the virus when she was inoculated.
“She might be incubating or is asymptomatic at the time that she was vaccinated. We know for a fact that there is a certain period of incubation. Through the days that followed, she developed symptoms after vaccination,” he said.
Another possibility, Domingo said, is that the patient may still be developing her immune system when she was exposed to a COVID-19 patient.
“During the first few weeks after you are injected with the vaccine, you have no protection. This is the time that the immune system is still trying to develop it. It is expected that, in the first few weeks after vaccination, your risk of developing COVID-19 is the same as a non-vaccinated person,” said Domingo.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government targets to give Filipinos a “better Christmas” this year by stabilizing the supply of COVID vaccines and inoculating 70 million of the population before the year ends.
“We are relentlessly looking for stable and steady supply. The vaccination that we are doing, we have a very ambitious vaccination plan of more or less 70 million people and that’s a hard task and also a daunting task but we will do it, and we will do it so that next Christmas, this Christmas this December, we will have better Christmas,” he said in mixed English and Filipino in a TV interview.
The country has some 1.1 million doses of vaccines from Sinovac and AstraZeneca. The vaccines are given in two doses per person. The supply still does not cover some 17. million healthcare workers who are among the top priorities of the vaccination program.
Galvez, in interviews with CNN Philippines and ABS-CBN News Channel, said the government is focused on completing the vaccination of the health workers, which he said is possible by the second week of April. He said 269,583 healthcare workers have already been vaccinated in 4,500 vaccination sites nationwide.
The government targets to raise the inoculation rate to one million a week in April, two million a week in May, and three to five million by June. It hopes to start the vaccination of nine million senior citizens by April and complete it in one to one-and-a-half months using Sinovac which he said has the least adverse effect on the vaccinees.
He said the country is expected to receive 2.3 million doses before the end of the month, at least four million in April and eight million in May.
Galvez said the country is expecting an early shipment of 200,000 to 500,000 doses of Novavax by the second quarter if the US Food and Drug Administration grants it emergency approval, followed by the country’s own FDA.
He said he secured a 30-million supply from Novavax and the Serum Institute of India (SII), with a possible addition of 10 million, but has to wait for the issuance of an emergency use authority (EUA) to finalize the date of deliveries and payment.
Galvez said the government is expecting some positive developments in ongoing efforts to secure vaccines from Gamaleya and Johnson and Johnson either this week or next week with the expected issuance of an EUA and signing of supply agreement, respectively.
He said the Philippines is ordering 5 to 10 million doses of Gamaleya’s Sputnik V, with the first two million to be delivered sometime in April.
Galvez said the country is also likely sign the vaccine supply agreement with Johnson and Johnson “this week or next week.” — With Jocelyn Montemayor