A HEALTHCARE worker who had been vaccinated for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has died, according to the Department of Health.
The cause of death is COVID-19, not the vaccine administered on the worker, the DOH said in a statement, adding the national vaccination program which started on March 1 will continue despite the incident.
“COVID-19 vaccines cannot cause COVID-19,” it said.
The DOH said that on March 15, “a death was reported in an individual who had received the COVID-19 vaccine and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.”
The worker’s death prompted an investigation conducted by regional and national committees on adverse events following immunization (AEFI). The probe concluded that the cause of the death was COVID-19 vaccine and not the vaccine, the DOH said.
It also said the probe committees used a 2019 causality assessment methodology of the World Health Organization AEFI.
No other details on the worker’s death and the vaccine used were provided by the DOH. It said it considers the case “closed.”
Medical frontliners are the top priority in the vaccination drive.
The DOH and the Food and Drug Administration encouraged health workers to get inoculated.
“Millions of people around the world have received this vaccine, and evidence continues to show that the benefit of vaccination outweighs the risk of severe disease and death caused by COVID-19,” added the DOH.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, in a TV interview, said government is hoping to complete the vaccination of the 1.7 million healthcare workers by the end of the month, with the expected arrival of more COVID-19 vaccine doses.
“We are expecting 400,000 doses from Sinovac, and 900,000 from AstraZeneca within the month, and another 1 million from Sinovac, hopefully, by the last week of March or 1st week of April. That is about 2.3 million doses. That should suffice completely the vaccination of healthcare workers,” said Duque.
As of March 15, a total of 215,997 healthcare workers have already been given COVID-19 jabs nationwide.
The country has so far received at least 1.1 million doses of vaccines — 600,000 doses donated by China and made by the private Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech, and almost 525,600 doses of vaccines made by British-Swedish from AstraZeneca Plc, through the WHO-backed COVAX Facility vaccine-sharing initiative.
The vaccines are given two doses per individual. Those who received Sinovac shots are to receive the second dose starting March 29 while those given the AstraZeneca vaccine will get the second shot after 12 weeks or until May.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said almost 240,300 health frontliners have been inoculated since March 1, with about 5,000 showing “mild” adverse effects like fever.
He said while the side effects are “normal,” this prompted the government to slow down the vaccination program a bit to ensure that there are still enough people to man hospitals and care for patients.
He said this means vaccination is being limited to 100 health workers a day per hospital to ensure the operations of the facilities are not hampered.
Galvez expressed confidence that the government will complete the vaccination of 1.7 million medical frontliners by mid-April to early May.
He reiterated that the country is expected to receive 2.3 million doses of Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines this month.
He said the country expects the volume of vaccines will start arriving in May or June. He said if the bulk of the vaccines arrive, the government can focus on vaccinating a million people per week in April, two million people a week in May, and three to five million a week in June.
With this, we can substantially say that by the end of the year, we can inoculate 70 million Filipinos,” he added.
Galvez and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, meanwhile, defended private companies and organizations who have bought vaccines for their employees and members.
Galvez said the vaccines were bought under a tripartite government that involved the national government while Nograles said the vaccines are issued emergency use authority and cannot be sold commercially.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is asking the government to allow the private sector to import and buy COVID-19 vaccines directly from accredited sources and without restrictions or conditions.
“We have to keep pace with our neighbors, which except for Indonesia, have lower infection rate than us and yet are ahead of us (including Indonesia) in implementing the vaccination program,” said PCCI president Benedicto V. Yujuico.
PCCI also urged the government to consider the proposal of House deputy speaker Rufus Rodriguez to allow the private sector to buy and import vaccines for their employees and their families tax-free. This will reduce pressure from the government, which has limited budget to inoculate all or even 70 percent of the population, PCCI said.
Around 30,000 Filipinos in Israel, regardless of immigration status received free COVID-19 vaccines from the Israeli government, the Israeli Embassy in Manila said.
Israeli Ambassador Rafael Harpaz said even those with expired working permits were also given vaccine shots. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Irma Isip and Ashzel Hachero