Metro Manila (Fintech Zoom Philippines, March 4) — The World Health Organization continues to promote the use of the AstraZeneca‘s COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines despite reports the variant first detected in South Africa could render it practically ineffective.
WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe on Thursday said the position of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization panel that the vaccine made by the British-Swedish firm can be used in nations with high cases of the B.1.351 variant still stands. He added there are only six confirmed cases of the South Africa variant in the Philippines, majority of which are located in Pasay City.
“We still believe, and WHO released a statement, the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective even in places where you have the large proportion of cases which could be attributed to the B.1.351 variant,” he said in a media briefing.
OCTA Research fellow and molecular biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco had earlier quoted a South African study that the variant dramatically lowers the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccines from 70% down to 10%. South Africa halted its use of the said vaccine because of this reason, he said.
“It’s no different than injecting water into the patients. With 10% protection, basically, most people would still get mild and moderate COVID-19,” he said on Wednesday.
Abeyasinghe said this study is “limited” in scope since it only involved 2,000 participants. He added that there is no COVID-19 vaccine in the market that offers protection against mild infection, only against severe COVID-19 and death.
Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Philippines will continue to use the arriving doses of AstraZeneca after the government health experts issue guidelines on its use and allocation. She added they will study if a booster shot is necessary to fight off the variant.