Vaccine rollout ‘quite satisfactory,’ side effects ‘common, minor’ – DOH
MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Monday’s rollout of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination drive was “quite satisfactory,” but appealed again to health workers to accept the Sinovac vaccine.
“We need all the health workers, I appeal to you please not wait and get their first opportunity to be inoculated,” said Duque, who did not take the Chinese vaccine, citing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation against giving it to people 60 years old and above.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday admitted that the China-made CoronaVac vaccine had low acceptance among health workers.
During the launch in six hospitals in Metro Manila, only 756 health workers, soldiers and policemen, and a handful of government officials took CoronaVac shots.
Twelve more hospitals were to begin their own vaccinations on Tuesday, the DOH said.
On Monday, according to the DOH, at least 128 people were vaccinated at Philippine General Hospital, 20 in Lung Center of the Philippines, 353 in Veterans Memorial Medical Center, 85 in Dr. Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (Tala Hospital), 110 in Philippine National Police General Hospital in Quezon City, and 60 in V. Luna General Hospital in Quezon City.
At least 13 of the inoculated health workers experienced “common, minor” adverse effects, Vergeire said. In another briefing, however, she said there were 20.
But none was hospitalized, she said.
Developed by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, CoronaVac is only 50.4 percent effective to prevent coronavirus infection among health workers who are at high risk of catching the COVID-19 virus.
‘Content and happy’
The FDA gave CoronaVac emergency use authorization, but did not recommend it for use among health workers and elderly people.
The DOH, however, said it was “content and happy” with the rollout.
“We have long waited for this and we are now vaccinating our health-care workers who are the most important ones to be vaccinated,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday.
“Although our numbers are not yet that high, we are expecting and we are hoping that for these coming days among the different hospitals we will see an increased uptake of this vaccine so our health-care workers will be protected,” she added.
Vergeire said the allocation of vaccines per hospital was “flexible,” as there was no figure set for immunization every day.
She said vaccines were distributed according to how many signed up.
“If their uptake increases, we can distribute more,” she said.
‘Safety not a question’
To deal with hesitancy about CoronaVac, Vergeire said the government would intensify its information campaign.
“Information is important so people will understand that this vaccine is very safe based on available evidence. Safety is not a question,” she said.
On the clamor among health workers to see late-stage clinical trial data of CoronaVac that was not published in scientific journals, Vergeire said the FDA could not share the documents given by Sinovac due to a confidentiality undertaking.
But she said the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) studied the documents submitted by Sinovac.
“They saw that while there is 50 percent efficacy against mild disease, it has a 78 percent efficacy against moderate disease and 100 percent against severe disease. So our NITAG experts decided to recommend it to health-care workers because this will be beneficial to them because this will prevent severe disease and hospitalization,” Vergeire said.
“Personally 50 percent efficacy is better than nothing. This is for mild disease. But the 100 percent [efficacy means] that I will no longer be scared every day I report to work that I might get sick and be taken to the ICU. That is so much for me already,” she stressed.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque described the rollout as “very successful.”
Carlito Galvez Jr., who handles procurement for the vaccination drive, said at a meeting with President Duterte on Monday night that netizens and people he had met were “very excited” about the launch of the inoculation drive.
“Some local officials even texted me and said, ‘Sir, don’t forget us in the distribution of the vaccines,’” Galvez said.
According to information released by Roque, health workers at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City and Taguig City will be vaccinated on Wednesday, at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City on Thursday, and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City on Friday.
On Tuesday, the second day of the vaccination drive, only 131 of the 464 health workers at Pasay City General Hospital took CoronaVac shots. The rest said they preferred the Pfizer vaccine.
In Manila, 163 health workers at Santa Ana Hospital were inoculated with the CoronaVac jab. The hospital aims to vaccinate 1,900 health workers in the coming days.
At the state-owned Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City, only 130 of the 1,500 “prequalified” health workers received their CoronaVac shots, city officials said.
At his news briefing, Roque presented an allocation list that showed Metro Manila had more than 130,742 “eligible population” to receive vaccines. The rest of Luzon had 33,926; the Visayas, 26,296; Mindanao, 24,642.
“All in all, we have 215,606 [intended recipients]. We want to have a little backup supply so that we can send to various places that need these vaccines,” Roque said.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING, DEXTER CABALZA, MEG ADONIS AND JODEE A. AGONCILLO INQ
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.