DND to roll out vaccination program as FDA advice could disqualify Lorenzana
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of National Defense (DND) is set to start vaccinating its employees using donated supplies of CoronaVac, the vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech and which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said may not be advisable for use on the elderly.
It’s not clear if the DND’s highest ranking official, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is 72 years old, would receive CoronaVac.
The DND will receive 100,000 doses out of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac being donated by China, which is donating at least 10 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to developing countries.
In a statement, the DND said CoronaVac would be given to all employees and uniformed personnel of its civilian bureaus—Office of Civil Defense, Government Arsenal, National Defense College of the Philippines, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office and civilian employees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Family members of DND employees are also eligible to receive the shots.
“The intent is to vaccinate everyone who is in the same working environment and those living in the same households as our employees,” said Director Arsenio R. Andolong, DND spokesperson, in the statement.
“It is crucial that all must be vaccinated to allow us to create a ‘bubble’ of an immunized workforce,” he said.
Uniformed service members of the AFP would be vaccinated under a different plan, the DND said.
The FDA, which granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to CoronaVac, advised against its use on health care workers and the elderly.
Late-stage trial data showed the vaccine had lower efficacy when used on health care workers exposed to COVID-19 compared with healthy individuals aged 18 to 59, the FDA said.
This means senior DND officials, like Lorenzana, who is 72 years old, may not be qualified to receive CoronaVac.
The DND and its civilian offices have at least 25,000 civilian employees and military personnel nationwide, including civilian employees of the AFP. Also to be vaccinated are dependents or immediate family members of employees.
Delivery date of the vaccines depend on completion of documentary requirements. Once these have been completed, it could take up to three days for China to deliver the donated CoronaVac doses.
According to several online reports, CoronaVac uses dead viral particles to expose the immune system to SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19, without making the recipient sick. Two Western vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, create parts of the virus to trigger immune response.
A BBC report quoted Luo Dahai, associate professor at Nanyang Technological University, as saying CoronaVac was created through “a more traditional method that is successfully used in many well-known vaccines, like rabies.”
CoronaVac’s efficacy is not clear but it can be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius compared with minus 20 degree Celsius for Moderna and minus 70 degrees for Pfizer.
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