MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine health authorities on Wednesday allowed the use of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine for some senior citizens after initially limiting coverage to people aged 18-59 years, as the country battles one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
The Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration said they made the decision after receiving the recommendation of the Department of Science and Technology’s vaccine expert panel.
Senior citizens can now receive CoronaVac shots provided there is stringent evaluation of the person’s health status and exposure risk, they said in a statement.
The Southeast Asian country has seen new daily cases surge, mostly in the capital Manila, and its inoculation drive is being hampered by delays in vaccine deliveries.
A total of 922,898 doses of Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines have been administered so far to healthcare workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbidities, or just a third of the total local stocks, health ministry data showed.
Last week, the chair of a World Health Organization panel said Sinovac and another Chinese vaccine maker, Sinopharm, had presented data indicating levels of efficacy that would be compatible with those required.
The Philippine health authorities said that even though efficacy data for senior citizens from Phase III trials of the Sinovac vaccine, known as CoronaVac, was not yet sufficient “the benefits of using the vaccine for this particular group outweigh its risks”.
The Philippines has also negotiated vaccine supply deals with other manufacturers, aiming to inoculate up to 70 million people, or two thirds of its population.
(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Alison Williams)