VACCINE czar Carlito Galvez Jr. yesterday urged the public, particularly medical and other health frontliners, not to be “conscious” about brands of vaccines the government is using for its national immunization program against COVID-19.
He gave the assurance that all vaccines to be approved for use in the country will be safe and effective.
The government launched the vaccination program on Monday, using CoronaVac vaccines made by the private Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech. Vaccines from the US firm Pfizer and the UK firm AstraZeneca were originally expected for the launch of the vaccination drive but deliveries have been delayed. Hospitals reported a drop in the number of health workers who want to be vaccinated because of the change in brand to Sinovac.
The shipment of 600,000 CoronaVac doses arrived on Sunday and was donated by China. Questions were raised about the efficacy of the vaccine.
AstraZeneca vaccines, which were supposed to arrive last Monday, will arrive today, according to Malacañang.
Galvez, in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel, said vaccines from different manufacturers have different efficacy rates but all the vaccines received, distributed, and used in the country are safe and effective.
“Dapat hindi po tayo maging conscious sa mga brand … Ang pinaka-importante, iyung hindi po tayo ma-ospital at hindi po tayo magkaroon ng severe cases, at kahit magkasipon tayo, magkaroon tayo ng symptoms pero parang wala pong magiging epekto sa atin in terms of yung severity, hospitalization and death (We should not be conscious of the brand … the most important thing is we are not hospitalized, we do not have severe cases, and even if we catch colds, we show COVID symptoms, it will not have much effect in terms of severity, hospitalization and death),” he said.
Jaime Montoya, Executive Director of the Council for Health Research and Development, during the “Laging Handa” public briefing, assured the public that all vaccines to be used and distributed in the country will pass through stringent reviews by the Vaccine Experts Panel, Ethical Review Board, and the Food and Drug Administration.
Galvez reiterated that government targets to complete the vaccination of 1.7 million to 2 million health care workers nationwide this month.
The vaccines from Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer should be administered in two doses per person.
The government is targeting to procure 148 million doses to inoculate 50 million to70 million Filipinos for free within the year.
Galvez said the Sinovac donation and other brands expected to arrive soon will first be used on the health frontliners before the rollout is extended to the other sectors in the priority list and the rest of the populace.
He said the vaccination for the other sectors may start in April or May, depending on the availability of vaccines.
Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said the first two days of the immunization drive has vaccinated nearly 2,500 individuals.
Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo, meanwhile, said three more vaccine recipients experienced adverse events following immunization of the Sinovac vaccines.
“We have received information that 23 mild adverse events following immunization,” said Domingo in a televised public briefing.
Yesterday, the vaccination program were simultaneously launched at the East Avenue Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, The Medical City, St. Luke’s Medical Center – BGC, St. Luke’s Medical Center – QC, and Valenzuela Medical Center.
Galvez, together with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, witnessed the vaccination rollout at the St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Quezon City and Taguig City.
At least 5,000 doses of CoronaVac were allotted to SLMC. At least 100 vaccinations were made during the launch.
SLMC president Dr Arturo dela Pena, who has recovered from COVID-19, was the first to be inoculated at the SLMC in Quezon City.
He encouraged St. Luke’s frontliners to be vaccinated, saying he does not want anyone to experience what he went.
Prior to the rollout at the SLMC Quezon City and Taguig City branches, Duque led the rollout at the East Avenue Medical Center, also in Quezon City, and at the Medical City in Pasig City. National task Force deputy implementer Vince Dizon led the rollout at the Cardinal Santos Hospital in San Juan.
Galvez said at least 100,000 doses have been distributed and the government aims to complete delivery to different parts of the country by the end of the week.
He said requests for the Sinovac vaccine have surpassed the shipment of 600,000 doses, with requests for vaccines for about 202,200 individuals in Luzon, some 51,100 in the Visayas and 94,500 in Mindanao.
He said prior to the arrival of Sinovac, there was little to no request for the vaccines but the demand increased after the arrival last Sunday and the vaccination launch last Monday.
“Ngayon, halos araw araw, may tumatawag ng mga congressmen at mga mayors na talagang gusto nilang mabigyan din yung mga ospital po nila sa kanilang mga lugar (Now, almost every day, we get calls from congressmen and mayors saying they would like the hospitals in their areas to be given the vaccines),” he said.
Galvez said demand for Western vaccines remains high especially from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, while most Asian countries are now using vaccines produced in the region like those from Gamaleya in Russia and Sinovac and Sinopharm from China.
VACCINES FROM COVAX
The Philippines is set to receive tonight 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines under the arrangement of the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Roque said the 487,200 doses is the first batch of vaccines allocated to the Philippines under COVAX. He said he has no information as to why the AstraZeneca delivery was reduced from the 525,600 doses that was supposed to arrive last March 1.
Roque and Sen. Christopher Go, a long-time ally and former aide of President Duterte, said the AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive at the 7:30 p.m. today and will be welcomed by the President.
The Philippines was also supposed to receive 117,000 doses from Pfizer Biotech, also under COVAX, in February but the delivery date was postponed indefinitely pending an indemnity agreement that is acceptable between the Philippines and Pfizer. Pfizer wants to remove provisions pertaining to gross negligence, which the Philippines does not agree to.
Galvez said the Philippines has requested to increase the Pfizer vaccines under COVAX by another 900,000. A second request for 2.3 million more doses has been made and acknowledged by Pfizer.
Galvez, in the interview with ANC, said the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccines would ensure the continuity of the vaccination program which seeks to complete the inoculation of 1.7 million to 2 million medical workers and health frontliners from the hospitals down to the barangay health centers within the month. – With Gerard Naval