Press Release | 07 May 2021

The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday announced the official resumption of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine for all eligible population, following the recommendation of the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the DOH All Experts Group on Vaccines.

Previously, DOH adopted the recommendation of the FDA to temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca for individuals aged below 60 years old, after recent reports of very rare cases of Vaccine-Induced Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia (VITT). Based on current evidence, VITT is a very rare condition of blood clots associated with low platelet counts that can occur 4 to 28 days after receiving a viral vector vaccine such as AstraZeneca.

After discussions with the DOH All Experts Group and the Philippine College of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine (PCHTM), it was concluded that there are currently no known risk factors for VITT and that the benefits of receiving the vaccine against COVID-19 still outweighs the risk. However, specific guidelines and measures will still be enforced so that the risks can be mitigated. To date, no local VITT events have been confirmed by the National Adverse Events Following Immunization Committee (NAEFIC) and the FDA.

The DOH said that the resumption and issuance of the guideline is timely as 2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to arrive in the country this month.

Updated guidelines on the management of adverse events following immunization (AEFI) particularly for VITT1 were also subsequently released by the PCHTM. Based on the guidelines, all vaccination sites should have a strengthened post-vaccination surveillance to spot possible AEFI. Further, all healthcare workers (HCWs) in vaccination sites will be trained to detect and manage possible symptoms of VITT and refer them accordingly to the appropriate health facility for definitive work-up and management.

The DOH All Experts Group on Vaccines is composed of experts from the DOST Vaccine Expert Panel, Health Technology Assessment Council, Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group, NAEFIC, and DOH Technical Advisory Group for COVID-19.

The DOH urged the public to get their second dose of COVID-19 vaccines. The benefits of additional protection against COVID-19 could only be achieved by completing both doses of the vaccines. The DOH also reminded the public to practice the minimum public health standards to curb the transmission of COVID-19 even after getting vaccinated.