The Philippines will temporarily stop giving AstraZeneca’s anti-coronavirus vaccine to those under 60 years old due to “very rare” blood clot risk flagged by European drug regulators, authorities said Thursday.
While the Philippines has not reported blood clots after vaccination, the government said it will suspend the inoculation of younger people using AstraZeneca’s jab until there is “clear evidence” from local experts and an official guidance of the World Health Organization.
“The Department of Health on Thursday adopted the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration to temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca vaccines for individuals aged below 60 years old, following recent reports of rare cases of blood clots with low platelets detected in some individuals inoculated with the vaccine,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
The announcement follows the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency to list blood clots as a “very rare” side effect of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which linked it to low platelets detected in some individuals who received the shot.
It examined 86 blood clot cases, 18 of which were fatal, out of around 25 million people in Europe who were inoculated.
Most of the cases were in women aged under 60, according to the European agency.
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands have not recommended the shot for younger people.
Philippine authorities, however, stressed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risk of side effects.
“I want to emphasize that this temporary suspension does not mean that the vaccine is unsafe or ineffective — it just means that we are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of every Filipino,” said Eric Domingo, director general of the Food and Drug Administration.
“We continue to underscore that the benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh the risks and we urge everyone to get vaccinated when it’s their turn,” he added.
Local experts are carefully reviewing data “pertinent to this new development in order to craft appropriate recommendations on the vaccine’s use,” Domingo said.
There were hardly any AstraZeneca vaccine doses left in the country and that the next batch of the jab are expected next month, which would give authorities enough time to study available data, he added.
The Philippines has so far received 525,600 AstraZeneca doses from global vaccine-sharing pool COVAX Facility, almost all of which have been administered.
The next batch of vaccines were supposed to be shipped by the COVAX Facility last month, but was postponed due to global supply issues.
Over 922,000 have been vaccinated using shots from Sinovac and AstraZeneca since the Philippines began its vaccination drive, based on the latest data available from the health department.
Of these, more than 781,000 were health workers. The rest were senior citizens and people with underlying medical conditions, who belong to the A2 and A3 priority sectors for the state’s immunization drive.
The inoculation of economic frontliners and the poor might start next month.