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Local Roundup: • FDA: AstraZeneca gets go-ahead • 2 Miss U pageant bets test positive

The Philippines can continue using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after experts reviewed it amid blood clot reports, the Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday.

“I wrote to Health Secretary Francisco Duque to tell him, to reiterate that the benefit outweighs risk and we should continue using the vaccine,” FDA Director General Eric Domingo said during a Palace briefing.

Domingo said the World Health Organization, Vaccine Expert Panel, and the adverse events committee were “unanimous” in saying that the AstraZeneca vaccine’s overall benefit outweighed the known and potential risks.

“Here in the Philippines, our adverse events committee has not seen similar cases but in Europe and other parts of the world, it was seen that it is very rare,” said Domingo

The rare blood clots occurred in about one out of one million recipients, he said.

Over a million people in the Philippines have received either the Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine as of April 13.

Last week, the Philippines temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccine on people younger than 60 upon the recommendation of the FDA as a precautionary measure following reports of rare blood clots in recipients abroad.

New cases

The Philippines recorded 11,429 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the country’s total cases to over 900,000, as coronavirus-related fatalities counted over a hundred each day for exactly a week.

The country now has a total of 904,285 cases.

The DOH also reported total recoveries were at 705,164 with 856 new ones, while the death toll hit 15,594 with 148 new fatalities.

Vaccine deployment

The United States Agency for International Development will provide P170 million ($3.5 million) to support the Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout

US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law made the announcement on the new assistance during a visit to a vaccination site in Caloocan City with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan, USAID Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II, and other US and Philippine officials.

This new assistance, which brings total US government support for the country’s COVID-19 response to nearly P1.3 billion ($27 million), will strengthen vaccine delivery efforts.

Antigen kits

The Office of Civil Defense said that it had distributed 97,000 rapid antigen kits it has procured to 45 hospitals, local government units, and agencies in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

OCD spokesperson Mark Cashean Timbal said Resolution 108 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) authorized the OCD to utilize its quick response fund to procure an initial 500,000 pieces of antigen test kits.

The procured Abbott Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid antigen test devices, which were delivered in two batches, are stored in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Fill-finish facilities

The Philippines will possibly have its own fill-finish facilities for vaccine manufacturing by 2022, an official from the Department of Science and Technology said Thursday.

DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevara said two out of the six local firms that are in talks with the government for vaccine manufacturing are moving forward with their plans “quickly and aggressively.”

“If they pursue what we think are their plans based on what they have told us, it looks like they can start producing vaccines by late 2022,” she said in a health department briefing.

“If they continue being aggressive, based on our talks with them, they can manage to start by the end of 2022,” she added.

Beauty bets positive

Meanwhile, Miss Universe candidates Alina Luz Akselrad of Argentina and Adline Castelina of India have tested positive for COVID-19.

The two revealed the unfortunate news on their respective Instagram accounts as the rest of the Miss Universe 2020 candidates prepared to fly to Florida, USA, for the prestigious pageant.

Topics: AstraZeneca , COVID-19 , World Health Organization , Francisco Duque , Department of Health , Miss Universe
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