The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) has agreed to recommend the COVID-19 vaccine of China's Sinovac Biotech for health workers.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s emergency use authorization on the Sinovac vaccine proved that current evidence “is enough to establish that the vaccine is safe for use.”
“Our NITAG experts with the TAG (Technical Advisory Group) experts have concluded that the vaccine will be beneficial for the healthcare workers,” she said in a virtual briefing.
“The NITAG and TAG have deemed it sufficient to recommend the use of the vaccine for healthcare workers,” she added.
Dr. Marissa Alejandria, a member of the DOH TAG, said the experts reviewed data from unpublished trials.
“Considering the circumstances that our country is in where the first vaccine that we have now is really Sinovac, the same considerations in evaluating were used. So the efficacy, the safety, and then rational allocation of the vaccine,” she explained.
The NITAG finalized its recommendation after days of deliberation on how to allocate the 600,000 Sinovac doses that are expected to arrive on Sunday.
The DOH and National Task Force Against COVID-19 earlier said the rollout schedule of the Sinovac doses was on hold pending NITAG’s recommendation to the government.
The FDA granted emergency use authorization to Sinovac on Monday but did not recommend it for health workers, the top priority in the vaccination program, due to its lower efficacy rate of 50.4% in the said group.
The drug regulator later clarified that health workers can still get the Chinese vaccine if they prefer to.
NITAG said it “respects the authority and supports the initiatives of the FDA” through their recommendations on the use of Sinovac for health workers differ.
Vergeire underscored that the FDA’s recommendation does not prohibit health workers from getting inoculated with Sinovac.
The FDA previously said the Sinovac shot is best for clinically healthy individuals aged 18 to 59.
Health workers can say no
The NITAG experts also stressed that health workers will not lose their priority status On the vaccination list even if they decide not to get the Sinovac jab.
“Binibigay natin ngayon sa healthcare workers the decision if they want to accept it or not. Maaari naman nating ibigay sa ating healthcare workers because ‘yung ating objective of reducing morbidity and mortality, ma-achieve pa rin natin,” Vergeire said.
“Let’s say for example dinecline niya, then eligible pa rin naman siya doon sa susunod na tranche ng vaccine na darating,” NITAG member Dr. Maria Consorcia Quizon added.
Under the government’s COVID-19 vaccine prioritization list, frontline workers in healthcare facilities, senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities are first in line for inoculation. —KBK, GMA