The Philippines is targeting to start its mass COVID-19 immunization program by Feb. 15 with the expected arrival of vaccines made by Pfizer and BioNTech.
The vaccine, which has come around with an efficacy of 95%, has been found by the Health Technology Assessment Council to be safe, cost-effective, affordable, and desired by key stakeholders.
The HTAC advises both the Department of Health and state medical insurer PhilHealth.
Here's what you need to know about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine according to the HTAC and the Department of Health:
It's for emergency use only.
Health authorities recommend the emergency use of the vaccine for persons aged 16 and older, prioritizing the most at-risk and vulnerable populations.
"The vaccine prevents symptomatic COVID-19 infection in the short term, with benefits outweighing risks," the government's Health Technology Assessment Council said.
"Researchers worldwide continue to collect and monitor data to establish its long-term efficacy, safety, and its potential to reduce COVID-19 transmission," it added.
It's not for everyone.
The following people should not receive the vaccine according to experts:
- Persons with history of anaphylaxis or allergic reactions (of any severity) to any mRNA COVID-19 vaccine ingredient (such as Polyethylene glycol [PEG] or other related molecules) that occur within four hours from vaccination
- Persons with history of anaphylaxis or allergic reactions (of any severity) that occur within four hours after receiving the first dose of the vaccine
- Persons under 16 years of age
It should be administered in two doses.
Those who are eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech jab should receive two vaccine doses at least 21 days apart, the DOH said.
Both doses of vaccine should be the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, the DOH said since regulatory bodies have "yet to assess the safety and efficacy of mixed-product dosage series."
Worried? Consult your doctor first.
The DOH recommends consulting with physicians before taking the vaccine if one has a history of allergic reactions, and illnesses. Here are the guidelines:
- For those with a history of immediate allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to any other injectable therapy, such as intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous vaccines unrelated to a component of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, treatment for severe allergic reactions must be made available.
- For those with concurrent moderate to severe acute illness, for immunocompromised persons, Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), persons with other autoimmune conditions, and those with a history of Bell’s palsy, vaccination may be subject to physician advice.
- For pregnant and breastfeeding women excluded from other priority groups, vaccination may be subject to physician advice.
The DOH said there have been reported side-effects of the vaccine for persons with a history of severe hypersensitivity including:
- Severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis
- Hypersensitivity (such as respiratory distress [wheezing, stridor], urticaria, or angioedema) or allergic reaction of any severity to previous mRNA vaccine dose or its components, occurring 4 hours after administration
- Allergic reaction of any severity to polysorbate, occurring 4 hours after administration
Pfizer and BioNTech have also reported that their product is effective against coronavirus variants that have emerged in Britain and South Africa.