Sinovac: Vaccines may arrive this week

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    AN official of Sinovac Biotech yesterday said there is strong likelihood that the first batch of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines donated by the Chinese government will arrive in the country within the week.

    The donation is for 600,000 doses of the CoronaVac vaccines

    “Currently, the product is being prepared and readied. If we finish all the procedures, I think we will soon be ready to supply the products to the Philippines,” Sinovac general manager Helen Yang said in a TV interview.

    “After we have the EUA (emergency use authorization) issuance, we cleared everything from the approval side. Now, we need to complete the schedule of delivery and customs procedures that would normally take a few days,” she added.

    The EUA was issued on Monday. The Sinovac vaccines, as announced earlier by Malacañang, were originally set to arrive last Tuesday.

    The Food and Drug Administration issued the EUA to Sinovac after a “thorough and rigorous review of the currently available published and unpublished data.” However, the vaccine has only a 50.4 percent efficacy among medical frontliners.

    But FDA Director General Eric Domingo said the agency is not prohibiting the use of Sinovac vaccines on healthcare workers. All the FDA is saying is that it will have a lower efficacy rate when used for healthcare workers who are exposed to COVID patients.

    “It is not a contraindication,” he said.

    “Actually, if the healthcare worker is willing to be vaccinated with it, it is allowed,” he added.

    Sinovac is the third vaccine manufacturer granted an EUA by the FDA after Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca last month.

    Yang said said she recognizes concerns raised by some people over the 50.4 percent efficacy rate during clinical trials involving health workers in Brazil. She said the efficacy rate during clinical trials involving other sectors and in other countries was higher.

    She added Sinovac is the only company that conducted clinical trials involving healthcare workers who are more exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

    She said what the trials proved is that the vaccine works and it protects the people.

    She added that at least 12 countries are using their vaccine, including Thailand and Indonesia in Southeast Asia.

    The Philippines has not started its vaccination program.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Department of Health is ready to conduct immunization activities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, especially for healthcare workers.

    “If the facilities are available, such as hospitals, we can do 24 hours vaccination,” she said.

    “It will also be good as those on duty and those off duty can fix their schedules to get inoculated.”

    As for those in the communities, she said inoculation activities will most likely be done daily.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte wants to personally welcome the arrival of the Sinovac vaccines to show his appreciation and the country’s gratitude to China for the donation.

    He said the “debt of gratitude” to China would not affect issues between the Philippines and China.

    He said the government recognizes that more people, including those in the opposition, prefer Western brands but everyone should be thankful that the vaccines would soon be available and mass vaccination would finally start. — With Jocelyn Montemayor