Pfizer and Astrazeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine topped the ranking released by the Department of Science and Technology.
In an ABS-CBN News report, DOST said the vaccine ranking was based on safety, potential efficacy, stability, and the company’s track record.
Novavas and Sinovac placed third and fourth, respectively.
A vaccine expert, however, said that in a severe pandemic, a vaccine with an efficacy rate of at least 50 percent will offer “partial protection” that will be better than no protection at all.
Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, said the incidence rate of COVID-19 in a specific place is just as important a consideration as the safety and efficacy of a vaccine.
Brazilian researchers said the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine has been found to have an efficacy of 50.4 percent.
At a Senate hearing, Senate President Vicente Sotto III asked Bravo whether she would administer a vaccine with an efficacy rate of only 50 percent.
“That 50 percent efficacy was actually set by the WHO (World Health Organization) long before, in the beginning of the pandemic. They even said that an efficacy of 50-70 percent would be already acceptable in the midst of a pandemic because these efficacy rates are actually needed to be put in place when you have a severe pandemic,” Bravo said.
“When the incidence is so high that a 50 percent efficacy would really be good enough so we have that kind of protection, because no protection of course is worse than a partial protection, so I guess that would be a good efficacy rate should you be able to get that vaccine,” she said.
But she explained that the Philippines has many vaccine experts and that no single opinion may be enough, considering various incidence rates of COVID-19 in different places.
“It really depends on various factors, it’s not just safety and efficacy, but the incidence of COVID in that place that will matter most,” she said.
The expert also said efficacy is not just one number but a range.
Bravo said that in the case of the Pfizer vaccine, its 94 percent efficacy means that “severe infection” is prevented by 94 percent to 100 percent, but that it is not yet known if the vaccine prevents transmission or just the symptoms.
“It’s not easy to say, sir, that one figure will be enough to say whether you have prevention of transmission, prevention of hospitalization, or prevention of severe symptoms,” she said.
The Philippines has secured some 25 million doses of Sinovac’s vaccine.
Department of Health (DOH) spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Friday that it would take time before COVID-19 vaccines would be proven to be effective.
Vergeire’s statement was in response to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.’s statement that Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinovac, being effective on Indonesians, would be similarly effective on Filipinos.
Sinovac’s efficacy rate after human trials in Indonesia, however, only reached 65 percent and not 91.25 percent as Roque claimed.
Vergeire then maintained that regardless of the efficacy rate of COVID-19 vaccines after human trials abroad, all of these vaccines will have to pass the scrutiny of the Philippine vaccine experts and ultimately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Philippine FDA has only granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine so far—a vaccine which has been found 95 percent effective in its study population and 92 percent effective among all races after Philippine FDA evaluation.
Before Pfizer-BioNTech’s secured its Philippine EUA, it had secured EUAs from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Singapore.
Sinovac has a pending EUA application before the Philippine FDA, but the Chinese firm has yet to submit the results of its vaccine human trials to the Philippine FDA.
An EUA, however, does not allow vaccine makers to sell their products commercially since that would only be possible if they secured a certificate of product registration (CPC) from the Philippine FDA.
Vergeire earlier said that the FDA cannot issue a CPC on COVID-19 vaccines at this point since clinical trials of all of these vaccines are not yet finished.
Vergeire also said the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines for the country’s mass vaccination program will not depend on efficacy rate but on the logistical requirements of each brand.
She said vaccines that need to be stored in ultra-low temperatures would be deployed to urban areas with cold storage facilities such as Metro Manila, Cebu City, Davao City and some areas of Central Luzon and Calabarzon.
“The other vaccines…well, most of the vaccines are just requiring 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, those that could be used in any region,” she added.
The Philippines already secured a vaccine supply deal with AstraZeneca (17 million doses) and Novovax (30 to 40 million doses) so far.