Philippines approves emergency use of Moderna shot for adolescents

The country’s drug regulator has approved the emergency use for adolescents of the vaccine made by Moderna, Inc.

The decision was made two weeks after the American drugmaker applied for an amendment of its previous vaccine application.

The agency’s regulatory experts and the government’s panel of vaccine experts have allowed the two-dose Moderna vaccine to be used for children aged 12 to 17, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Enrique D. Domingo said during a televised news briefing.

“With the Delta variant affecting a lot of children, experts saw that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks,” Mr. Domingo said.

Meanwhile, Vaccine Expert Panel chief Nina G. Gloriani said the government may come up with a decision on the use of booster shots next week.

“By next week, we may release a decision on that,” she told ABS-CBN Teleradyo.

“We are considering a lot of things, including the breakthrough infections among healthcare workers,” she added.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said separately at a virtual news briefing that the government may consider the administration of booster shots “once the vaccine supplies stabilize.”

The vaccination of children may also happen once the country secures enough vaccines for its entire adult population, she added.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III earlier told a House committee hearing that the Department of Budget and Management cut the DoH’s proposed P104-billion budget for booster shots next year to just P45 billion.

The budget for the top-up shots would only be funded if the government is able to raise enough money for it, said Mr. Duque.

LOCAL SUBSTITUTE FOR COVID DRUG

Meanwhile, Ms. Vergeire said the FDA has already issued an emergency use authorization for a local drug that may be used as an alternative to immunosuppressive drug tocilizumab, which is being used to treat patients with severe coronavirus disease.

Mr. Domingo said separately that the Philippine government is in talks with Roche, the producer of tocilizumab, to secure more of the drug as the country struggles to contain a spike in coronavirus cases.

“We have already talked to the company that owns the innovator drug to ask if they can add more supply because the shortage is happening worldwide,” he said.

Ms. Vergeire of DoH earlier said the country was having a hard time sourcing the anti-inflammatory drug due to competition “across the globe.” — Kyle Aristophere Atienza

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