Experts call for ‘safe, transparent’ vaccinations after unregistered vaccine use

Bonz Magsambol

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FRONTLINERS. Health workers observe other medical personnel as they conduct a swab test to a suspected COVID-19 patient in Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila on April 17, 2020.

File photo by Lisa Marie David/Rappler

The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 is alarmed that some Filipinos have already received COVID-19 vaccines that are not FDA-registered

Medical experts called for “safe and transparent” use of COVID-19 vaccines after an unregistered vaccine was used on top government officials and soldiers.

In a statement on Tuesday, December 29, the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) said it was alarmed that some Filipinos have already received COVID-19 vaccines which were not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

HPAAC raised 3 “critical points of concern” regarding the use of unregistered vaccines:

  • In keeping with public safety, we strongly discourage the use of vaccines that are not yet approved by the FDA.
  • Even if a vaccine is approved in other countries, its storage, transport, and distribution are complex procedures. Improper handling can damage vaccines and can render them useless. This is why distribution channels and processes need to be transparent and regulated.
  • Because all vaccines against COVID-19 are in various stages of clinical trials and are not yet approved for commercial use, all information about use and their actual effects should be properly documented and monitored. Such surveillance is only possible with proper regulation and coordination with health authorities.

HPAAC urged the government and the general public to address these concerns.

“The success of any vaccination program is hinged on mutual trust between the public and institutions,” it said.

The HPAAC is the Philippines’ largest group of health workers, and includes medical groups which called on the government to review its pandemic response. The group had said the country was “losing the battle” against COVID-19.

On December 28, officials confirmed some Cabinet officials and soldiers had already been vaccinated against the deadly virus, which stoked public ire for appearing to prioritize select individuals outside of the government’s own list of target priority groups – the first of whom are frontline health workers treating COVID-19 patients. 

A total of 13,527 health workers have contracted COVID-19 as of December 27. Of these, 76 have died while 13,243 have recovered.

On Tuesday morning, FDA Director General Enrique Domingo said neither the Department of Health nor the FDA were consulted over the early use of the unregistered COVID-19 vaccine.

Malacañang defended the early vaccination of officials and urged the public to just “accept” that uniformed personnel were among those already inoculated against COVID-19. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.