The Philippines has become the 52nd country to give the go-ahead to Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to be used for its national inoculation program against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
The developer of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus jab said Friday its shot had been approved for use in the Philippines, which in recent days experienced a surge in infections, particularly in the national capital region and nearby areas.
Authorized for limited use among Filipino individuals aged 18 and above, the non-replicating viral vector COVID-19 vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology through the support of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which backed the development of Sputnik V, said in a statement the jab was registered “under the emergency use authorization procedure.”
Kirill Dmitriev, RDIF’s CEO, said in the statement the Philippines was “among the first to show interest in the Sputnik vaccine after it was registered in Russia.”
Intent to apply
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has received letters from two different companies expressing intent to apply for emergency use authorization (EUA) of the coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm Group, the agency said Friday.
“There are two companies [that] wrote us with a letter of intent to apply for an EUA for the product Sinopharm vaccine,” FDA chief Eric Domingo said in a briefing.
The FDA has responded to both letters, informing them of the requirements and the process of EUA application, he said.
“But neither of them responded, so as of now, there is still no officially filed application with documents and requirements with the FDA when it comes to Sinopharm,” Domingo said.
Malacañang has said President Rodrigo Duterte prefers the Sinopharm vaccine.
In a related development, the Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech and its distributor must first submit data proving that their coronavirus vaccine was safe and effective on the elderly before it could be administered on senior citizens in the Philippines, FDA said.
After vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government was eyeing the CoronaVac jab for senior citizens, Domingo clarified that Sinovac had yet to provide data that could be used to revise its emergency use authorization (EUA).
“Once they submit all of the scientific data and the evidence, then we can always revise the EUA. But at this time we have not received this evidence, so the approved indication is for people who are 18 to 59 years old,” he said in a briefing.
Domingo said that while most studies have shown adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccines are less likely among older people, “of course, we still need the actual data.”
‘Return to growth’
Meanwhile, the ICTSI Foundation of global port operator Enrique Razon said the private sector effort to bring in vaccines in partnership with the government “would catalyze a return to a growth path for the Philippine economy.”
ICTSI has led a group for the procurement of Moderna vaccines, expected to reach between 7 and 8 million doses and arrive in May or June.
“We would like to thank the National Government for its trust in the private sector and for allowing the members of the Buyer’s Group to directly participate in the Government’s vaccination efforts. We are honored to be part of this enormous and noble endeavor to help our people recover from the impact of pandemic and to catalyze a return to growth for our nation,” said ICTSI Foundation in a statement.
‘Accelerate rules release’
In a related development, a legislator urged the Department of Health, the National Task Force and the Government Procurement Policy Board to accelerate the release of the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 11525, or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act, to allow the private sector to aid in the government’s effort to secure COVID-19 vaccines.
“Government needs private sector support, but they need the implementing rules so they can act. And the rules have to be simple and reasonable. No unnecessary restrictions, especially those outside legislative intent,” said House Ways and Means Chair and Albay Rep Joey Sarte Salceda, who also co-chairs the House’s Economic Stimulus and Recovery Cluster.
Salceda said faster vaccination would be a preferable option over large-scale community quarantines and lockdowns.
Teachers a priority
A member of the minority bloc in the House of Representatives has renewed her appeal to the government for the prioritization of teachers in the government’s vaccination program against COVID-19.
Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, in House Joint Resolution 35 she filed early this week, asked the national government to transfer teachers to the A4 priority group of the vaccine priority list.
“At present, teachers are in the B1 priority group. They should be in the A4 priority group because they are the frontliners of the education sector,” Quimbo said.
Quimbo said the teachers are frontliners too and that having them vaccinated would enable the country to resume face-to-face classes sooner than later. With AFP