An infectious disease specialist and member of the Philippines’ vaccine expert panel has sought to allay fears after the Philippines stopped the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine following rare cases of blood clots reported abroad.
Dr. Rontgene Solante said the suspension of the UK-made jab, once hailed as a milestone in the fight against the pandemic, was only temporary.
“This is part of the process when we approved the EUA for this vaccine. If there are safety signals, our local experts will have to review it so we can determine if it’s not unsafe in our vaccination,” Solante told Teleradyo’s “Sakto.”
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine obtained regulatory approval in the Philippines on January 28 but has been recently hit with safety concerns abroad.
Europe’s medicines regulator said it found rare cases of blood clots among some adult recipients of the shot, although the vaccine’s advantages still outweighed its risks.
Some countries reported isolated cases of bleeding, blood clots, and a low platelet count in millions of adults who received the shot.
Solante said those who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine without experiencing any adverse effect would continue to receive the shot.
There will also be ample time for the review of the vaccine before the schedule of the second dose, he added.
Cases of rare blood clots were reported among recipients younger than 60 years old and usually occurred two weeks after the vaccination.
“Let’s assure the public that if you received the first dose and you got past the second week, it seems like you are safe from the complications reported in other countries,” he said.
The Philippines on Thursday suspended the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for those 60 years old and younger due to reports of rare blood clots in some individuals who received the product abroad.
The Philippines received 565,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX Facility. It is the second vaccine brand delivered to the Philippines, after China’s Sinovac, the rollout of both had already commenced. With AFP
Abroad, Hong Kong on Friday confirmed it has requested AstraZeneca to suspend delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine amid fears of severe side effects and concerns over its efficacy against new variants of the coronavirus.
Europe’s medicines regulator said this week the AstraZeneca vaccine could cause very rare blood clots in some recipients, prompting a cascade of countries to pull the plug on giving it to people under a certain age.
Britain sought Thursday to quell fears over the jab, saying the potential side effects were extremely rare -- and the risk of falling seriously sick from COVID-19 was far greater.
On Friday Hong Kong’s health chief Sophia Chan said the city has asked AstraZeneca not to deliver as planned later this year.
“We think it is not necessary for AstraZeneca to deliver the vaccines to the city within this year,” she said, adding Hong Kong wanted “to avoid any waste as vaccines are in short supply globally”.
Wealthy Hong Kong has secured a good supply of vaccines for its 7.5 million residents.
It has signed deals for 7.5 million shots each with BioNTech/Pfizer and China’s Sinovac, both of which have begun deliveries.
Chan said Hong Kong was also keen to look at other vaccines that may have stronger results against newer strains of the coronavirus.
HK wants replacement
Earlier this week David Hui, a leading public health expert and government adviser, called for Hong Kong to replace AstraZeneca with a new single-dose vaccine made by Johnson and Johnson.
Densely populated Hong Kong was one of the first places to be hit by the coronavirus, but strict social distancing and universal mask wearing have helped keep infections to just over 11,000 with 205 deaths.
While it has a steady supply of vaccines, take up has been slow amid swirling distrust of the government as Beijing cracks down on democracy supporters.
So far just 529,000 people have had their first dose.
Public confidence has also been hampered by government messaging.
China’s Sinovac received fast-track approval despite not publishing its clinical trial data in a peer reviewed journal.
Administration of BioNTech’s vaccine was also briefly suspended after some vials were found to be defective even though authorities said any damaged bottles were discarded before being used in vaccinations. With AFP