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Sinovac vaccine 'not low quality' – Malacañang

Malacañang staunchly defended CoronaVac, the vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac, after it secured Philippine emergency use approval but was not recommended for use for health workers and senior citizens.

"It is not a low-quality vaccine. It is accepted under standards arrived at by the World Health Organization itself. It is a guarantee that those vaccinated will not die of COVID-19," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Monday, February 22.

The WHO has said that a 50% efficacy rating is acceptable for vaccines.

The Sinovac vaccine had an efficacy of 50.4% from trails in Brazil involving health workers. But Phase 3 trials showed an efficacy rate of 65.3% to 91.2% among healthy individuals aged 18 to 59 years old.

Roque said while CoronaVac may only be 50% effective against preventing COVID-19 infection, it gives "100%" protection against death from the disease.

"Tingin ko naman tatanggapin 'yan ng taumbayan (I think the people will accept that)," said the Duterte spokesman.

Economic frontliners, soldiers may go first

Because of the limitations imposed by the FDA on the Sinovac vaccine, economic frontliners and soldiers will likely be the first to get the 600,000 doses set to arrive in the Philippines in the coming days, said Roque.

"Maybe the economic frontliners may go first, including the military," he said.

He defined economic frontliners as those critical staff working in industries that are allowed to operate under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) because of the essential nature of their work.

These also include "transport workers, farmers, fishermen, miners" and people who work in business process outsourcing firms (BPOs), said Roque.

The government's initial priority list put health workers and senior citizens at the front of the vaccine line but the FDA does not recommend that Sinovac be given to healthcare workers or senior citizens.

Soldiers, meanwhile, will definitely be benefiting from the first batch of Sinovac vaccines because 100,000 of the incoming 600,000 doses were donated by China specifically for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

But it will be the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) that will come up with a new list of priority sectors specifically for the Sinovac vaccine, said Roque. The NITAG, a group of medical experts, had made the government's main priority list. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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