FDA recommends continued AstraZeneca vaccine use following experts’ advice

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 15)— The Food And Drug Administration on Thursday recommended that the Philippines continue the rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine following a review by health experts.

In a Palace briefing, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said he already sent a letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III suggesting that the government push through with the vaccine’s use, reiterating that the product’s benefits “outweigh the risks.”

Dumating na po ‘yung mga recommendation ng WHO [World Health Organization], ng vaccine expert panel, noong atin adverse event committee— unanimous naman lahat na ang AstraZeneca, ‘yung paggamit niya bilang bakuna, overall, ay talagang the benefit outweighs the known and the potential risks,” Domingo told reporters.

“So sumulat ako kanina kay Secretary Duque, para sabihin sa kanya, the benefit outweighs risks, and that we should continue using the vaccine para sa ating vaccination program,” he added.

[Translation: The recommendation of the WHO, our vaccine expert panel, and our adverse event committee arrived, and it was unanimous that the overall use of AstraZeneca, the benefit really outweighs the known and potential risks. So I wrote to Secretary Duque to tell him that benefit outweighs risks, and that we should continue using the vaccine for our vaccination program.]

Last week, Philippine health authorities decided to temporarily stop giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under the age of 60. The move came after European drug regulators found a link between the coronavirus shot and a few cases of unusual blood clots with low platelet count — a report that prompted several countries including Denmark, Iceland, and Norway to suspend their rollout.

The Department of Health earlier reported there have been no reports of unusual blood clotting among Filipinos who received the vaccines developed by the British-Swedish manufacturer.

In line with this, Domingo assured that those who got inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine will be getting their second doses once supplies arrive.

He added the DOH is also expected to release new guidelines on the product's use.

A member of the country’s vaccine experts panel, Dr. Rontgene Solante, has also reminded the public that vaccinees' health condition will be monitored for possible adverse effects following inoculation.

“We hope that our communication to the public, especially for those who will be given the vaccine, they should understand that during the rollout, there will be really post-vaccination monitoring, including close follow-up,” he said in a CNN Philippines interview Thursday evening.

Last week, Domingo said the country has almost used up all of the 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca that arrived in the country in March.

Latest government data show a total of 1,255,716 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered nationwide as of April 13.