Government physicians on Thursday said the countrys COVID-19 vaccination drive would proceed despite the death of a health worker after being inoculated with a China-made vaccine against the coronavirus.
Dr. Rommel Lobo, head of the National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee, said the health workers death was not related to her receiving a shot of CoronaVac, the COVID-19 vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech of China.
Lobo said the health worker, a 47-year-old woman, had other illnesses, including hypertension, diabetes and bronchial asthma.
Vaccine not cause of death
Dr. Beverly Ho, the Department of Health (DOH) director for health promotion and disease prevention and control, said there was no reason to suspend the vaccination drive since the vaccine was not the cause of the health workers death.
We emphasize that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks, Ho told a news briefing.
Lobos committee investigated the death of the health worker, who, he said, caught COVID-19 last year.
The health worker tested positive for the coronavirus again on Feb. 22, a week before she was scheduled to get inoculated, he said.
But a second test on Feb. 23, Lobo said, returned negative.
He said the committee concluded that the positive result of the Feb. 22 test could be remnants of the womans coronavirus infection last year.
The comorbidities present in this patient put her at risk [of] developing COVID-19, Lobo told the news briefing.
Her health declaration showed that the health worker had no symptoms when she received her first dose of CoronaVac on March 4. But she tested positive for the coronavirus on March 8, Lobo said.
Possibly incubating
He said the health worker was admitted to hospital on March 10. She died three days later.
The patient might have been exposed to a [coronavirus-infected] individual and then she might have been incubating or asymptomatic at the time she was vaccinated, Lobo said.
He stressed that there was no way the health worker could have gotten the virus from the vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine does not cause COVID-19, because it is an inactivated vaccine. None of the vaccines approved for use in the Philippines can make people sick with COVID-19, Lobo said.
Reported to Sinovac
Eric Domingo, chief of the Food and Drug Administration, said the regulator had reported the health workers death to Sinovac through the local distributor and it was awaiting the manufacturers response.
Domingo reminded the public that there is no protection during the first few weeks after the first dose.
This is the time your immune system is trying to develop antibodies, he said, adding that protection kicks in two to three weeks after the second dose.
Lobo advised people who have had COVID-19 to wait up to four months after recovery before getting their first shot because of the current scarcity of vaccines.
We know that if you have just recovered, you have antibodies. We need to prioritize those who have not yet been exposed, who have no protection, he said.
Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the DOH advisory group, said the Philippines would continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine as advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) despite the decision of several European countries to suspend use of the Anglo-Swedish jab due to coagulation problems that some recipients had experienced.
No advice to stop
The WHO is saying that the vaccination should continue because [the situation is] still dangerous and people are continuing to get COVID-19. So for now, there is no advice to stop [here] in the Philippines, and our use of AstraZeneca here continues, Salvana said.
The DOH has ordered hospitals in the Southern Tagalog region to use all the AstraZeneca doses that came from the global vaccine pool COVAX as first dose for health workers amid the spike in COVID-19 cases.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III recommended the first-dose use of the 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca from COVAX during a meeting with President Duterte on Monday.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. supported Duques recommendation, saying the interval between the required two doses, about three months, was enough time until the arrival of the next batch of the vaccine.
Galvez said he was confident that COVAX would deliver 972,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine anytime between March 22 and early April.
Logistical problems
The vaccination drive began on March 1, but several private hospitals, mostly outside Metro Manila, have yet to receive vaccines, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. said on Thursday.
Dr. Jose de Grano, the association president, said the delay was primarily due to logistical problems and miscommunication involving government requirements.
Galvez said all the 1.1 million doses of CoronaVac from China and the AstraZeneca vaccine had been deployed to hospitals and vaccine sites, but a source from the DOH who is familiar with the supply chain, said some vaccines were still at the regional DOH hubs.
Director Napoleon Arevalo of the DOH disease prevention bureau said the agency would check which hospitals in the regions had not yet received vaccines. Delivery to Metro hospitals has been completed, he said. WITH REPORTS FROM MARICAR CINCO AND JEROME ANING
For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.What you need to know about Coronavirus.For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.
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