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TAKING cue from the reported death of 23 elderly Norwegians who were administered shots of COVID-19 vaccines, the Philippine government underscored the need to be more cautious in choosing the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to Filipino senior citizens.

In a radio interview, vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. said they would make sure that a similar incident will not happen in the Philippines once the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program begins, adding that the goal is to meet “zero-casualty and as much as possible, very close watch.”

“Ang task group na ginawa namin dito ay isang task group ng mga vaccine expert para talagang alalayan. Susuriin talaga natin ‘yung mga history, titignan natin,” Galvez said.

According to a report of the Norwegian Medicines agency, the 23 deaths were associated with COVID-19 vaccination, 13 of which have already been assessed.

“Common adverse reactions may have contributed to a severe course in elderly people who are frail,” the report read.

“The Large studies on Comirnaty… did not include patients with unstable or acute illness — and included few participants over 85 years of age,” it added.

Galvez said that upon hearing the news, he reached out to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III about their plan for administering the vaccine to senior citizens in the Philippines.

“Sinabi namin na mas maganda ‘yung original plan namin na 18 hanggang 59 [years old] lang muna at hahanap tayo ng bakuna na pang-matanda talaga,” he said.

“Based sa initial report ng Norway, talagang delikado ‘yung 80 and above. So ‘yun ang talagang titignan natin lalo na ‘yung talagang may komplikasyon at talagang nakikita natin ‘yung mga frail. Kasi titignan natin din ‘yung risk and benefit ng bakuna natin,” he added.

The Philippines targets to inoculate 50 to 70 million individuals within the year, and an estimated 50,000 Filipinos are expected to be vaccinated in February.

Galvez earlier said the vaccine manufactured by American corporation Pfizer could be the first that will be used against COVID-19 in the country as the COVAX Facility will have an early rollout of said brand.

Upon hearing the incident in Norway, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, hinted on revising the EUA to ensure the same incident will not happen in the Philippines, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said.

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