Defense Dept. set to vaccinate personnel with China's Sinovac

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The Department of National Defense said Tuesday it is ready to begin its COVID-19 inoculation program for DND personnel once China's donation of 100,000 doses doses of the Sinovac vaccine arrives. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) — The Department of National Defense said Tuesday it is ready to begin its COVID-19 inoculation program for DND personnel once China's donation of 100,000 doses doses of the Sinovac vaccine arrives.

The vaccines will be given to all civilian employees and military personnel assigned to the DND and its civilian bureaus: the Office of Civil Defense, Government Arsenal, National Defense College of the Philippines, and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, with two doses each. The DND said there are about 25,000 civilian employees and military personnel in the department and its civilian bureaus nationwide, but their family members will also be eligible to get the shots.

Uniformed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will be under a different vaccination program and are not part of the count.

"The intent is to vaccinate everyone who is in the same working environment and those living in the same households as our employees," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana initially said that he was willing to take the Sinovac vaccine CoronaVac, but the 72-year-old official later clarified that he will wait for other vaccines to arrive since the Food and Drug Administration recommended younger individuals (ages 18 to 59) to receive the drug.

China donated 600,000 Sinovac vaccines to the Philippines, which were supposed to arrive on Feb. 23. There has been a delay, but Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the shipment is ready.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization to CoronaVac, but there is a caveat. Due to its lower 50.4% efficacy rate on medical frontliners during a trial in Brazil, the vaccine is not recommended for healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 patients, elderlies, and people with comorbidities. It should only be used on healthy people aged 18-59 with an interval of four weeks between doses, given that the efficacy rate for that demographic is higher at 65.3% to 91.2%, FDA chief Eric Domingo maintained.

Sinovac is the third manufacturer whose vaccine received regulatory approval in the country, following UK-made AstraZeneca and US' Pfizer BioNtech.

Apart from the donation, the country is finalizing a deal with Sinovac for the purchase of 25 million doses. The agreement is expected to get inked in two weeks, Senator Sonny Angara said, citing information from the National Task Force Against COVID-19. Of this number, an initial batch of 1.5 million doses is set to arrive before the end of March, the senator added.