COVID-19

Sinovac rollout in PH on hold until experts finalize recommendations

Sofia Tomacruz
Sinovac rollout in PH on hold until experts finalize recommendations

SINOVAC. A worker performs a quality check on the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020.

File photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

Sinovac’s CoronaVac is scheduled to arrive on February 28

The Department of Health (DOH) and National Task Force COVID-19 (NTF) said on Thursday, February 25, that the schedule of Sinovac’s rollout in the Philippines would remain on hold as experts finalize recommendations on its use and allocation in the country. 

Malacañang earlier announced that Sinovac’s CoronaVac was scheduled to arrive on Sunday, February 28, making it the first vaccine to arrive in the Philippines.

The DOH and NTF confirmed the date of arrival of the vaccines first announced by Malcañang, saying doses will be delivered “in the next couple of days.” But in a statement it clarified that its rollout schedule would depend on guidelines crafted by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG). 

“The Department of Health and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 jointly clarify that…specific details as to the allocation and subsequent rollout of the 600,000 donated Sinovac doses are still being evaluated pending the official recommendation of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) and its approval by the  Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID),” it said in a joint-statement. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier estimated the country could start its mass vaccination campaign with China’s Sinovac vaccine on Monday, March 1. 

The arrival of Sinovac’s vaccine comes after the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted it emergency use authorization but with the recommendation that it not be used on health workers with high exposure to the disease. 

FDA Director General Eric Domingo said its lower efficacy of 50.4% from trials in Brazil led experts not to recommend its use in the priority sector. The Brazil trials involved health workers exposed to COVID-19.

The agency instead recommended its use among 18-59 year olds after separate Phase 3 trials in Indonesia and Turkey demonstrated an efficacy of 65.3% to 91.2%. These trials were done mostly in community settings and not among health workers who were exposed to COVID-19. 

NITAG deliberations on the specific guidelines for the use of Sinovac have been ongoing since Tuesday, February 23. 

Several of the Philippines’ top health experts earlier urged the Duterte government to likewise wait for the review of the country’s Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) before using donated Sinovac vaccines

The Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 said the HTAC’s review was necessary as the body “does not solely focus on cost minimization issues for the State, but also include ‘ethical, legal, social and health system implications.'” – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.