Philippine government medical experts will review the clinical trial data of Sinovac Biotech after China approved the emergency use authorisation (EUA) for its Covid-19 vaccine in younger children and adolescents.

Dr Rontgene Solante, a member of the Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) and an infectious diseases specialist, on June 6 said the group would look into the trial data of the CoronaVac vaccine given to recipients age 3 to 17, “just like how we evaluated and approved the extended indication [of] Pfizer [for age] 12 to 15”.

But Dr Edsel Salvana, a member of the government’s Technical Advisory Group, said amending the EUA to cover a wider age range was “not automatic” and the Chinese drug manufacturer would still have to apply for it in the Philippines.

Still, Salvana welcomed China’s approval as “good news”, saying this could lead to more vaccines becoming available in the Philippines for the younger population to help speed up school reopening.

He said in a text message: “The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] actually just amended the EUA for Pfizer for 12 to 15 years [old].”

The agency has yet to formally announce its decision, though. Last week, its director general, Eric Domingo, said the drug regulator had received a “favourable” result of an evaluation by the VEP on the US-manufactured vaccine.

The original EUA issued to Pfizer indicated it was only for people 16 years old and above.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 27 recommended that everyone 12 years and older should get a Covid-19 vaccine.

The VEP’s Solante said in a Viber message: “Children are as vulnerable [to Covid] as adults. There are already reports in other countries with increasing cases [among] children, that’s why the approval of Pfizer was also fast-tracked for this age group, especially in the United States and Europe.”

On June 6, the Philippines took one million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac, increasing the country’s vaccine stockpile to 9.3 million that includes other brands like AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sputnik V.

Sinovac’s EUA in the Philippines, as well as the World Health Organisation’s emergency use listing, currently recommends its use in people 18 years old and above.

The government was due to start vaccinating front-line workers on June 7, estimated at 35.5 million in the identified “essential” sectors.

“There will be a ceremonial rollout of vaccination for the A4 group,” health secretary Francisco Duque III said on June 6, using the designation for vaccine priority workers.

“It is crucial that we already start vaccinating them as they are our economic front-liners,” he added.