The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for emergency use.
The government agency granted the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) after it found that the vaccine has a 70% efficacy rate after the first dose. AstraZeneca should be administered twice, with a gap of four to 12 weeks in between jabs, said FDA Director-General Eric Domingo.
“It is decided that all conditions for an EUA are present…The benefit of using the vaccine outweighs the known and potential risks,” Domingo said in a media briefing.
Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which the FDA approved earlier this month, AstraZeneca is easier to store. Pfizer needs to be stored at a temperature of -80°C and -60°C, while AstraZeneca can be kept at 2 to 8°C.
“The adverse effects we saw are all very mild, very similar to getting any flu injection. Most effects are body pain, a slight fever, a bit of headache that is all transient and easily managed,” Domingo said.
“Now that it has an EUA, it can now be used by the government. A lot of local government units have tripartite agreements with the [national] government and AstraZeneca for them to be able to access this drug,” the FDA chief added.
The Philippines’ national government has bought about 17 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine through tripartite agreements with private companies and local government units. At least 300 companies and 39 local governments contributed to the fund that was raised to buy the vaccine.
The Russian-made Sputnik vaccine, China’s Sinovac, and India’s COVAXIN have also applied for EUAs with the local FDA. The Duterte government is expected to start immunizing Filipinos against COVID either at the end of February or early March.
The country has the second-highest number of COVID cases in Southeast Asia, with 518,407 cases recorded as of yesterday, including 475,542 recoveries and 10,481 deaths.
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