More than 1,200 BI frontliners to get COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021   •   247

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday announced it will roll out the COVID-19 vaccination for its frontline workers this weekend.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said they are looking to inoculate a total of 1,250 immigration personnel starting this April 24 to 25.

Immigration personnel eligible for vaccination will receive government-procured Sinovac’s CoronaVac jab, which will be administered in two doses in an interval of 28 days.

A pre-screening will be conducted on the medical history of the officers to determine those who are eligible to receive the vaccine.

“We have scheduled vaccination of our eligible employees on a weekend so as not to hamper our daily operations,” Morente said.

Adhering to the priority list given by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the BI will start vaccinating employees who are senior citizens and persons with co-morbidities.

“The continuous rise of COVID-19 cases accentuates the need to vaccinate our frontliners, especially those belonging in the most vulnerable group such as the seniors and persons with co-morbidities. We want to assure their safety from the threat of the deadly virus,” Morente shared.

BI Deputy Commissioner and Chairperson of the bureau’s COVID-19 Task Force Aldwin Alegre said that despite vaccine rollout among immigration officers, they will continue to implement basic health protocols such as wearing face masks and face shields, maintaining physical distancing, and checking body temperatures.

“Our frontliners are one of the most exposed and have a high risk of contracting the highly transmissible virus. As such, we will continue to make sure that all health protocols are being followed,” Alegre said.

“I am confident that as our officers get their jabs, we will be able to carry out our mandate better and with less worry,” he added.

The BI has so far recorded 300 COVID-19 infections among its personnel.

Duterte may take second dose from Sinovac if Sinopharm fails to secure EUA – vaccine expert

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may still get his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine using a different brand should Sinopharm fail to secure approval from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a member of the Philippine vaccine expert panel said Thursday.

Infectious disease expert and vaccine expert panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante said Duterte may be inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine as this brand is similar to Sinopharm.

Duterte was vaccinated on Monday using Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, which has yet to be granted an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

“As long as hindi pa yan [aprubado para sa] emergency use authorization, dapat hindi ibabakuna,” Solante said.

“Iyong second dose pwede niyang (Duterte) ipahabol ang Sinopharm but Sinopharm has to produce the data and submit it to VEP and FDA,” he added.

“Kung halimbawa hindi na pwede ang Sinopharm, meron naman isang bakuna na magkahawig sa Sinopharm, na nabigyan na rin ng approval natin – yung Sinovac… It is possible because they have the same platform,” he further stated.

COVID-19 vaccines made by Sinovac and Sinopharm are both whole virus vaccines that use weakened or deactivated form of the pathogen that causes COVID-19 to trigger protective immunity to it. Inactivated pathogens cannot infect cells and replicate but can trigger an immune response.

Solante said these vaccines can be stored in a standard refrigerator and are administered in two doses.

The FDA earlier said that Sinopharm’s application for EUA remains pending as firms that have filed for its emergency use in the Philippines have yet to submit requirements.

“We also stand by our policy na as long as hindi pa iyan EUA, dapat hindi ibabakuna, that is one. Pangalawa, yung Sinopharm, walang sinu-submit na mga documents sa VEP para ma-assess namin. Kung meron lang sana noon, bago nagpabakuna yung presidente, pwede naman namin i-review tapos we can also give our recommendation to the FDA,” Solante said.

Duterte earlier defended his decision to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to undergo further evaluation and secure EUA from the FDA.

He apologized for using a vaccine that has not been vetted by Philippine authorities then said that he had asked China to withdraw the Sinopharm doses it donated to the Philippines.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s second Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine dose will not be returned to China so he can complete his immunization process. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

DOH studying possibility of mixing vaccine brands – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is currently looking into the possibility of mixing different brands of vaccines against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Thursday.

FDA director general Eric Domingo said the DOH is already drafting a set of guidelines that will allow a person to receive different brands of COVID-19 vaccines for first and second dose in case of severe allergic reaction and other adverse effects.

Aaralin po ngayon yan ng Department of Health, in fact, meron naman po talagang ongoing meetings ang Department of Health on that dahil meron po talagang instances na for example naturukan ka ng bakuna ng first dose tapos nagka-severe allergy ka so hindi ka na puwede sa second dose nun at kailangang isipin ngayon yung magiging alternative,” Domingo said during the Laging Handa briefing.

“Gumagawa na ng guidelines ngayon ang DOH kung paano ‘yung interchangeability or mixing ng vaccines in case the second dose cannot be given na identical doon sa first dose,” he added.

Domingo said this after President Rodrigo Duterte said he has requested China to recall the 1,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines it donated following criticisms over his decision to receive a jab that has yet to secure an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

Duterte received his first dose of Sinopharm vaccine on Monday night.

Malacañang earlier said that the vaccine dose used on the president was covered by the compassionate special permit issued by the FDA for the Presidential Security Group.

DND’s Lorenzana backs Duterte remark on arbitral ruling on WPS vs China

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday expressed agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent remark on the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) favoring the Philippines in its case against China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“What President Duterte said last night regarding the PCA ruling is correct,” Lorenzana said in a statement, referring to Duterte’s statement that nothing happened when he tried to assert the arbitral ruling on the Philippines’ rights in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea.

In a pre-taped public address on Wednesday night, Duterte said he tried to pursue the arbitral ruling when he came to power in 2016 but “nothing happened,” adding that the ruling was “just a piece of paper” that can be tossed into a waste basket.

Lorenzana said he agrees with the President when he said that there is no international law enforcement body that can enforce the ruling.

He, however, stressed that even without the PCA ruling, the Philippine government will still continue to defend “what is rightfully ours.”

“As I said in my previous statement, the President’s orders have been firm and straightforward: we defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas,” he said.

Lorenzana also said that Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue conducting maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group.

The National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea earlier said that it has intensified maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea after Chinese vessels were spotted lingering in areas within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The Department of Foreign Affairs have repeatedly filed diplomatic protests over Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

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