April 16, 2021 (8:32 PM)

4 min read


Health workers in Davao City who received the 1st dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine worry that they may not get their 2nd dose on time following the recent suspension of said vaccine in the country. Photo taken from REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration, March 14, 2021.

DAVAO CITY – The temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines is posing problems for the continuity of vaccines for frontline health workers in Davao City.

This comes after the Department of Health (DOH) adopted the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca vaccine for individuals below 60 years old, following reports of rare cases of blood clots among those inoculated with the vaccine in Europe.

Most of the 12,000 frontline health workers in Davao City who were inoculated during the first rollout on March opted for AstraZeneca over China’s Sinovac, and are supposed to receive their second dose. With the suspension of the vaccine, Dr. Ashley Lopez, Davao City Health Office (CHO) head and focal person for the city’s COVID-19, said there will be adjustments.

Lopez said during the COVID-19 Update program on Wednesday at the city government-owned Disaster Radio 87.5 FM that they are looking at two possibilities.

One option is to wait for updates from the FDA as the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca conducts its research.

“AstraZeneca is still holding its research study. We’re still waiting for updates–a memo from the manufacturer about the fate of AstraZeneca,” Lopez said during the program.

But if the suspension will not be lifted by May, Lopez said those who have been vaccinated with their first dose of the said vaccine will have to wait for a few more months before receiving another vaccine brand.

“…Kung ilang i-suspend ang Astrazeneca, then we will wait for at least six months para mudawat na pud og lain brand. Kay dili mana pwede i-cross ang brands (If (the FDA) suspends AstraZeneca, then we will wait for six months to take another brand. We cannot cross to other brands),” he said.

Lopez explained that there is no adequate study that can prove the viability of receiving two different vaccine brands for the first and second dose.

“Wala’y adequate na study ana so dili pud ta mag tuga tuga pa inject og Astra tapos second dose Sinovac. Dili na sya pwede (There is no adequate study, so we can’t just assume that we can inject AstraZeneca [first] and then have Sinovac for the second dose. That cannot be),” he clarified.

Although no adverse side effects have been reported in the Philippines, the FDA has said that the suspension is a “precautionary measure to ensure the safety of every Filipino.”

In a report by CNN Philippines yesterday, FDA recommended to DOH the continued rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the country. This comes after the World Health Organization and the country’s vaccine experts said the jab’s benefit “outweighs the risk.”

As of press time, however, DOH has neither lifted said suspension nor released new guidelines on the vaccine’s use.

Senior citizens

Lopez also addressed a question from senior citizens who are expecting their vaccination to wait a little longer because of delays in the arrival of vaccinations.

According to Lopez, the delay in vaccination has been caused by irregular vaccine supply from the national government and the prioritization of the National Capital Region.

“The reason for the interruption is that we don’t have vaccines, and we hope Davao gets prioritized. We are all affected by the surge (of COVID-19) in (the National Capital Region). They are being prioritizing that’s why our allocation were also affected,” he said.

“I asked for patience among the senior citizens. We are trying our best,” he told Disaster Radio.

Lopez said they are exploring options for that particular sector by tapping private hospitals to include senior citizens in their vaccination program for their staff and employees.

Based on the Department of Health’s vaccination framework, frontline health workers are under Priority Group A1, followed by senior citizens who belong to Priority Group A2.

Lopez said the City Health is now at the last stage of vaccinating frontliners which include health workers in clinics, lying-ins, dermatology clinics, and dialysis centers.

“This is the last group to receive our rollout for group A1. So after that, as soon as possible we are going to start with our senior citizens,” he said.

This article was first published in davaotoday.com.

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