Philippines watching Norway deaths involving Pfizer drug

PFIZER, Inc.’s emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Philippines for its coronavirus vaccine stays, as Health authorities await a report on the deaths of elderlies in Norway after getting vaccinated.

Norwegian authorities were still looking into the issue, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said on Monday, noting that the vaccine had been given to severely ill patients.

“They are not closing the issue, they would want to look into it further,” she told an online briefing.

“Until there’s sufficient evidence that the vaccine caused it, we will keep the status quo on the emergency use authorization given to Pfizer,” she said in Filipino.

Twenty-nine elderlies with serious health conditions died after getting inoculated with Pfizer’s vaccine, according to an article from Bloomberg News.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week approved the emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine, which has a 95% efficacy rate. The agency said its benefits outweigh potential risks. The FDA said side effects were transient and mostly mild to moderate, similar to common vaccine reactions.

Ms. Vergeire noted that Norway had reported 400 deaths among Norway’s elderlies and the government seemed to be saying that the deaths might have been coincidental because the patients were severely ill.

“Studies have to be done so that we can be able to validate and say for sure that there was a causality and the vaccine caused the deaths,” she said in Filipino.

Ms. Vergeire also said the FDA could only decide on Pfizer’s emergency use authorization after it evaluates a report from the drug maker.

FDA Director-General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo told a House of Representatives hearing on Monday they had asked the company about the Norway incident.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 2,163 coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the total to 502,736. The death toll rose by 14 to 9,909, while recoveries increased by two to 465,988, it said in a bulletin.

There were 26,839 active cases, 85.8% of which were mild, 6.1% did not show symptoms, 4.9% were critical, 2.8% were severe and 0.44% were moderate.

Davao City reported the highest number of new cases at 134, followed by Cagayan at 100, Quezon City at 99, Leyte at 93 and Cavite at 75.

DoH said four duplicates had been removed from the tally, while three recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Four laboratories failed to submit their data on Jan. 17.

About 6.9 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Jan. 16, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 95.5 million and killed more than two million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 68.2 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Vergeire said the seven-day infection average in the past week had risen to more than 1,500, higher than 1,000 to 1,300 cases daily in December.

Health authorities are monitoring the situation, she said, adding that other factors should be considered in the increase, such as some laboratories having tested fewer people during the holidays. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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