Sinovac’s COVID vax allowed for emergency use in PH, but not for healthcare workers

CoronaVac, the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac. Photo: Indonesian Ministry of State Secretariat
CoronaVac, the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac. Photo: Indonesian Ministry of State Secretariat

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, just a few days before the doses donated by the Chinese government are scheduled to arrive in the country.

“After a thorough and rigorous review by our regulatory and medical experts, the FDA issues an EUA to Sinovac,” FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said in a virtual briefing.

Read: Mayor Isko Moreno willing to be publicly vaccinated with China-made Sinovac

The vaccine’s efficacy ranges from 65.3%, based on Indonesian clinical trials, to 91.2%, according to trials conducted in Turkey. However, based on trials conducted in Brazil, it records a mere 50.3% efficacy when injected on healthcare workers who have been exposed to COVID-19, leading the local FDA to prohibit their use on this group.

“It’s good that there is a vaccine, compared to not having one. But the recommendation of experts is that this is not the best vaccine for them, [for healthcare workers],” Domingo said in English and Filipino.

CoronaVac can be used by “clinically healthy” people from 18 to 59 years old. Side effects were mild to moderate, Domingo said.

“It’s safety profile is good. The adverse effects, it’s the usual pain [felt] on vaccination area, just a bit of fever. But allergy [and] anaphylaxis, there’s a low possibility of severe allergy with this vaccine,” Domingo added.

At least 50,000 doses of CoronaVac will be bought by the Department of Health using its funds. Meanwhile, around 600,000 doses of the vaccine will arrive in the Philippines this week, a donation from the Chinese government.

Sinovac’s vaccine has been the subject of much controversy in the Philippines after a former government adviser, Dr. Tony Leachon, said that it could possibly be unsafe. Some critics have also alleged that it is more expensive than other COVID vaccines, such as those from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, which come at higher efficacy rates.

Not a single Filipino has been injected with a COVID-19 vaccine, except members of the Presidential Security Group, President Rodrigo Duterte’s bodyguards. They were inoculated in December with smuggled dosages of Sinopharm, another China-made vaccine. It was just last week when the local drug regulator granted a “compassionate use” approval for Sinopharm, which will be used again on Duterte’s men.

As of writing, no one from the security group has been punished for using smuggled vaccines.



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