The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech is safe and can give protection to healthcare workers against the viral illness, local health experts assured on Friday, Feb. 26.
Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) has agreed to recommend the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for medical frontliners.
“The DOH, FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and our panel of experts concur that the current available evidence is enough to establish that the vaccine is safe for use,” Vergeire said in a press briefing.
“After a thorough discussion, our NITAG experts have concluded that the vaccine will be beneficial for the healthcare workers,” she added.
Based on the clinical trial data of the Sinovac vaccine, it was shown that the vaccine is “50 percent effective in preventing mild symptoms, and 100 percent effective against moderate to severe symptoms,” said Vergeire, adding that the data also shows that it is effective in “reducing morbidity and mortality.”
“Given this evidence, the NITAG has deemed it sufficient to recommend the use of the vaccine for healthcare workers as it bears to reiterate that our goal for prioritizing healthcare workers for vaccination is to reduce morbidity and mortality among their group while we maintain the most critical essential health services,” said the DOH spokesperson.
Right to refuse
Healthcare workers have the right to refuse the Sinovac vaccine and wait for the arrival of other vaccine brands, said the health experts.
“We like to emphasize again that vaccination with the incoming Sinovac donation is voluntary and we’d like to give the right of refusal after informed choice to our healthcare workers because they deserve it,” said Dr. Nina Carandang, health social scientist and professor of the College of Medicine at the University of the Philippines-Manila.
“If they want to give their slot for this particular Sinovac vaccine and wait for the next vaccine to arrive in the country, that is their personal decision and it is not mandatory for them to accept this particular Sinovac vaccine,” she added.
It is only right that the healthcare workers be given the choice, said Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the DOH Technical Advisory Group.
“I think it is completely appropriate that we be given the first choice whether we are going to take this vaccine that’s already available or if we want to wait. But at the same time, based on the data, this vaccine looks like it will save lives and so I think, it is right that we offer it to the people who have been on the frontlines, who have been saving lives,” he said.
“If they feel that it is not the right vaccine for them, then we are not going to penalize them, they are still first in line either for Pfizer or Astra[Zeneca]. But as for myself, a healthcare worker who sees covid patients, I’m willing to take this vaccine,” he added.
Carandang encouraged healthcare workers to get vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine.
“We like to offer this opportunity for healthcare workers if they are willing to do so to have themselves vaccinated with Sinovac. If they don’t feel that this is not the best vaccine for them, given their risk benefit analysis for themselves, then they can still wait for the other brands of vaccines – but unfortunately we don’t know yet: what is the current status of the negotiations and what is the actual delivery date of the (other) vaccines. So that is the tricky part that you have to look at,” she said.
“You may not like the current brand available, but if you think that your risk is high at this point in time because of patient care duties and exposure in the community, then you also have to think about how much worth it is for you to actually have the Sinovac vaccine because we don’t know yet as to when the next vaccines of whatever brand are coming into the country,” she added.
Carandang, meanwhile, expressed hope that the country can secure other vaccine brands soon.
“We hope that we will be able to procure our own set of other vaccines from the other brands soon,” she said.