Imee urges gov't: Give weight to COVID vaccines with Asian participants

Sen. Imee R. Marcos urged the government Friday to give weight to COVID-19 vaccines that included more Asian participants in their efficacy trials.

Senator Imee R. Marcos (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Besides cost, cold storage requirements, ease of use, and the media hype, we must not overlook the Asian factor in choosing the safest vaccines for Filipinos,” she said.

Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, pointed out that three leading vaccine candidates that received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in Western countries had conducted trials in which less than five percent of participants were Asian.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported that only 4.7 percent of participants in Moderna’s vaccine trials were Asian while the medical journal The Lancet showed that Asians averaged only 4.4 percent in UK and Brazil trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Although Pfizer placed the overall efficacy of its vaccine at 95 percent, only 4.3 percent of trial participants were Asian and efficacy particularly among non-whites was lower at 74.4 percent.

The lack of a clearer breakdown of various Asian ethnicities in vaccine trials has also led health experts in India to call for greater participation of its ethnically diverse groups before granting an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Western-made vaccines, Marcos said.

“Vaccines may actually be customized in the future,” Marcos added, citing a study published in December by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Using artificial intelligence and a vaccine similar to that of Pfizer and Moderna, MIT researchers found that Asians were less likely to respond to the experimental vaccine than Caucasians.