MANILA - A Filipino nurse in her late-40s has died from infections caused by the coronavirus, only days after receiving a dose of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.
Health officials on Thursday (March 18) told reporters she did not die because of adverse reactions to the vaccine.
"The patient died of Covid infections," said Dr Rommel Lobo, who heads the government's National Adverse Effects Following Immunisation Committee.
He said the nurse was probably exposed to someone who was carrying the virus but not showing any symptoms.
The 47-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 on Feb 22, but a second test came back negative just a day later.
Dr Lobo said the Feb 22 test probably detected viral remnants, as the nurse had already had a Covid-19 infection last year.
With the Feb 23 negative result, she was cleared to get a dose of the Sinovac vaccine on March 4.
But on March 8, she again tested positive and was taken to a hospital on March 10, where she died on March 13.
The nurse was taking medication for hypertension and bronchial asthma, and was managing her diet because she also had diabetes.
Dr Lobo stressed that the vaccine itself could not trigger Covid-19 infections.
"It is inactivated. It does not cause… infections because it's a dead virus already. It will just stimulate the immune system to develop a… response," he said.
Dr Beverly Ho, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said the country's vaccination drive would continue.
"It's very clear from the report that there is no reason to suspend our vaccination programme as the vaccine was not what caused the death of our healthcare worker," she said.
Some 240,000 health workers have received at least one dose since the Philippines began its vaccine roll-out last month with some 1 million doses secured from Sinovac and British-Swede pharma firm AstraZeneca.
The government is expecting a shipment of another 1.4 million doses from Sinovac and a million from AstraZeneca in March and April.
The Health Ministry reported on Thursday that of the 240,000 inoculated, just 7,469 manifested "adverse reactions". Most involved pain, chills, chest discomfort, fatigue, headaches and dizziness.
The Philippines is wrestling with an alarming surge in Covid-19 infections, driven in part by at least four new variants of the coronavirus.
Researchers from the University of the Philippines-based Octa Research Group said on Wednesday that Metro Manila - the capital region spanning 16 cities and home to some 13 million - is already seeing a "serious surge" in infections.
It said average cases per day in Metro Manila had nearly doubled to 2,231, and that the region could see up to 11,000 infections a day by the end of the month.
With over 635,000 cases and nearly 13,000 deaths, the country has the second-worst outbreak in South-east Asia, after Indonesia.