Philippines approves Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

The Philippines' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, providing another vaccine option for the Philippines which is battling one of the worst outbreaks in Southeast Asia.

FDA General Director Eric Domingo made the announcement in an online Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday, May 5.

"The known and potential benefits of the Moderna vaccine, when used to prevent COVID-19, outweigh the known and potential risks of said vaccine as of date," Domingo said.

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by American drug firm Moderna is the seventh vaccine to be granted emergency use approval in the Philippines.

Domingo said that it only took 10 days for the FDA to approve Moderna's application – shorter than the usual 21 days.

"It only took us 10 days because they have complete documents," he said.

Moderna's vaccine has been one of three shots used in the US vaccination program, along with Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson's (Janssen Pharmaceutical) vaccines. 

The Philippines earlier ordered 20 million doses of Moderna's vaccine for 2021 and is eyeing to purchase millions of booster shots being developed by the drug firm to provide additional immunity against COVID-19.

In terms of efficacy, preliminary data published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Moderna's vaccine is more than 90% effective against COVID-19 about six months after the second dose of the shot is administered. Phase 3 trial data showed the vaccine is also 94% effective against symptomatic COVID-19, 14 days after the second dose. 

Storage of Moderna's vaccine would be more complex compared to other jabs as it requires being frozen in colder temperatures, specifically -25°C to -15°C up to expiration. But unlike the Pfizer vaccine, Moderna's shot may be kept longer in standard refrigerated temperates of 2°C to 8°C for 30 days, making it easier to handle in countries like the Philippines equipped with such storage facilities. 

Moderna earlier said it was studying immune responses to its vaccine beyond six months and whether its booster shot would be effective against variants of COVID-19.

The Philippines earlier cleared the vaccines of Pfizer and BioNTechAstraZenecaSinovacGamaleya Research InstituteJ&J, and Bharat Biotech for emergency use in the country. –

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.