FDA: Majority of deaths after COVID-19 jabs 'not linked to vaccination'

The Philippines' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Friday, April 23, that health authorities have recorded 24 fatalities after COVID-19 vaccinations, but most of those who died had preexisting illnesses.

"Most of them, 19, were found coincidental. Ibig sabihin po ay hindi konektado sa pagbabakuna kundi dahil sa may sakit sila (That means their death is not linked to vaccination but because they had preexisting illnesses), FDA Director General Eric Domingo said in a press briefing.

Based on the evaluation, Domingo said that of the 24 deaths, 11 were found to have contracted COVID-19, eight had cardiovascular or cerebrovascular illness, three reportedly suffered another infectious disease, while two are still under investigation.

Domingo said the 11 who died of COVID-19 after being vaccinated only got the first dose of the vaccine and were not yet completely protected from the coronavirus.

"Noong tiningnan po ang dahilan ng kanilang pagpanaw, 'yung 11 – halos kalahati – nagkaroon po ng COVID-19, severe COVID-19. Kasi nga po hindi pa complete ang protection for COVID-19 nang tayo ay mabakanuhahan hanggang ma-complete ang ating dalawang doses," he said.

(When we were looking at their cause of death, 11 of them – almost half – had severe COVID-19. This is because they did not have complete protection from until they complete the two doses.)

Scientists have said that it's stil possible to get infected with COVID-19 even after getting vaccinated.

According to the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), it typically takes a "few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination." 

"That means it's possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection," the CDC said.

Of the 24 deaths, 14 received AstraZeneca vaccines while 10 got Sinovac shots.

Table from FDA

As for the side effects, Domingo said that the most common are fever, chills, vaccination site pain, headache, and rashes.

Temporary side effects from vaccines are a normal sign of a developing immune response. (READ: Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 will have side effects – that’s a good thing)

As of April 20, DOH data showed that over 1.5 million doses have been administered in the country, including 1.3 million doses given as the first dose, and 209,456 who have received their second dose.

Despite the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos remained high as 6 in 10 Filipinos do not want to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest Pulse Asia survey released in March, prior to the surge in cases.

Vaccine fears fanned by the Dengvaxia scare had pulled down immunization rates in the country, even for proven vaccines.

As of Thursday, the Philippines has 971,049 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 16,370 deaths and 846,691 recoveries. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.