Robredo, Pangilinan call for HTAC review on donated Sinovac vaccine
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Francis Pangilinan are backing a group of doctors from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in calling for a further review of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by China-based Sinovac.
In her weekly radio show on Sunday, Robredo underscored the need for Sinovac’s vaccine to undergo the right process in order to ensure the protection of the country’s health workers. The government of China has donated 600,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine which are expected to arrive on Sunday afternoon.
“Ang Pfizer saka AstraZeneca, mayroon nang EUA (emergency use authorization), mayroon nang positive recommendation galing sa HTAC, itong Health Technology Assessment Council,” she said.
(Pfizer and AstraZeneca already secured their EUA as well as a positive recommendation from the HTAC, the Health Technology Assessment Council.)
“Pero iyong Sinovac, nakikita natin mayroon pa lang siyang EUA pero wala pa siyang positive recommendation from HTAC. Ito iyong pinoprotesta noong mga health workers sa PGH,” she added.
(But Sinovac, it already has an EUA but it has yet to secure a positive recommendation from HTAC. This is what our health workers in PGH are protesting.)
HTAC, an advisory body created under the Universal Health Care law, reviews the cost, as well as the ethical and community impact of drugs that will be introduced to the public.
The council is also mandated to undertake technology appraisals by determining their clinical and economic values in the Philippine healthcare system, with the aim of improving overall health outcomes and ensure fairness, equity, and sustainability of coverage for all Filipino citizens.
Sinovac’s vaccine was the third to secure an EUA from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Despite securing the EUA, the FDA earlier said the Sinovac vaccine is not recommended for use by healthcare workers and the elderly, who are the top priority population of the government’s vaccination program.
FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said the vaccine’s efficacy rate on healthcare workers stands at 50.4%, which makes it not the best vaccine to be given to medical frontliners who have been exposed to Covid-19 patients.
The National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) later recommended the use of the China-made vaccine on health workers. The NITAG is composed of experts tasked to help the Department of Health reach responsible, evidence-based advice when it comes to vaccines and immunizations.
NITAG member Dr. Nina Castillo-Carandang said the HTAC has yet to require an evaluation of the donated China-made vaccine pursuant to the mandate of the Universal Health Care Act as these were not procured using government funds.
However, an association of doctors at the PGH said Sinovac’s anti-Covid jab should still undergo evaluation by the HTAC, noting that it has met sweeping disapproval from the hospital’s residents and fellows.
Robredo is supporting the call of the PGH doctors saying that a review by the HTAC is still needed regardless of whether the vaccine doses are donations or not.
“Hindi naman sinasabing masama iyong Sinovac or whatever. Pero ang sinasabi lang, mag-go through naman sana sa proseso, para siguradong protected tayo, ‘di ba?” she said.
(We are not saying that Sinovac is bad or whatever. What we are saying is that it should go through the right process to make sure that we are protected.)
“Kung ano iyong ni-require natin from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, ganoon din sana sa Sinovac, kahit pa donated ito,” she added.
(What were have required for Pfizer and AstraZeneca should also be the same for Sinovac, even if the vaccines are donated.)
Senator Pangilinan also gave the PGH health workers his support stressing the need for further appraisal of the Sinovac vaccine “to facilitate individual informed decision-making” before it is administered to the population.
“Calling on Dr. Marita Reyes of HTAC. You promised us in the Senate Committee of the Whole hearings last January that you would not allow politics to interfere with your decision. We trust your words. Please make your decision on Sinovac known soonest,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
“Makinig tayo sa mga eksperto. The best ang ating mga doktor sa PGH. Makinig tayo sa kanila (Let’s listen to the experts. Our doctors in PGH are the best. Let’s listen to them),” Pangilinan said, noting that Filipinos continue to face the threat of Covid-19 as they await the arrival of the vaccine.
“Sinovac, being the only available vaccine, for now, must be reviewed by HTAC. Purchased or donated, No vaccine that will arrive and will be used in the country should be exempted from this requirement,” he added.
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