DOH says more info needed on Sinovac-injected Indonesian health workers who contracted COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) — The Philippines' Health Department said Friday it is awaiting further developments on a report that health workers in Indonesia caught the COVID-19 virus despite being vaccinated with Sinovac.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire was referring to a Reuters story on more than 350 health workers who caught the virus in Indonesia's Kudus district, where cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant which first emerged in India were also previously detected.

The report said most of the workers were asymptomatic and in isolation, but "dozens were in hospital with high fevers and falling oxygen saturation levels."

READ: Hundreds of vaccinated Indonesian health workers get Covid-19, dozens in hospital 

Like the Philippines, Indonesia has largely relied on the Chinese vaccine manufacturer amid global shortage, with most of its health workers getting Sinovac doses.

Vergeire said more details still need to be provided in the article to dispel possible worries among Filipinos.

"Looking at that article, we need to be very cautious kasi matatakot ang mga tao. Kasi iyong article na yan hindi naman niya sinabi kung ang mga bakunado ay fully vaccinated or (they) just received one dose," she told CNN Philippines' The Source.

[Translation: Looking at that article, we need to be very cautious because people might get scared. That article does not state whether the workers were fully vaccinated or they just received one dose.]

The report said Kudus has about 5,000 healthcare workers. Citing the Indonesian Medical Association, it said almost all of them received Sinovac.

"If for example they have 5,000 healthcare workers, and the infections were just at 300, maliit po na porsyento yan. At makikita natin na let’s say 3% (ang na-infect), 97% pa rin naging epektibo ang bakuna," Vergeire said.

[Translation: If for example they have 5,000 healthcare workers, and the infections were just at 300, that's still a small percentage of infection. If for example, 3% of the group got infected, there's still a 97% chance that the vaccine was effective.]

The Reuters story actually said "more than 350 doctors and medical workers" in Kudus, which has about 5,000 healthcare workers, caught COVID-19 despite being vaccinated with Sinovac. Those numbers implied a 7% infection rate, a CNN Philippines computation shows.

Vergeire also noted that Sinovac has yet to release its study on its effectiveness against the Delta variant.

Sought for his comment on the issue, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the data should be validated first.

"Let's wait for the analysis of the vaccine expert panel, i-hold muna yung comment considering it came from a newspaper," Galvez said.

[Translation: Let's wait for the analysis of the vaccine experts panel, and hold the comment first considering it came from a newspaper.]

Galvez also shrugged off worries that the news may again dampen Filipinos' vaccine confidence in China's Sinovac.

Early this month, the World Health Organization approved Sinovac for emergency use after it showed that it prevented symptomatic disease in 51% of those who got the shot and prevented severe COVID-19 and hospitalization in 100% of the studied population.

However, it noted that the company must continue to "generate data to enable full licensure and WHO prequalification of the vaccine."

This Philippines now has 9 million Sinovac doses out of over 12 million vaccine supply being administered to health workers, senior citizens, persons with comorbidities, essential workers, and indigent citizens.

Also on Friday, Vergeire said in a media forum that less than one percent of people who received COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of June 6 had suspected side effects, most of them mild.

The government previously reminded the public that the best vaccine is still the one that is available, in a bid to overcome brand preference in the country.