The Department of Health (DOH) has suspended implementation of the second anti-COVID booster shots for specific targets while awaiting final recommendation from the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC).
The second booster shots were supposed to be administered four months after the first booster, targeting senior citizens, immunocompromised, and frontline health workers which have been granted the emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“All vaccines mentioned in the EUA for 2nd boosters will be used except Gamaleya Sputnik V,” the DOH said in a statement.
Health Undersecretary and National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) chairperson Dr. Myrna Cabotaje said on Sunday they have set April 20 as the rollout date for the second booster shot in the National Capital Region (NCR), expecting the HTAC to release the guidelines within the week.
Some 12.6 million Filipinos have received their first booster shots, the DOH revealed.
Based on latest data by NVOC, there are 50.1 million eligible individuals due for boosters as of April 17.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines said they preferred to use the phrase “up to date with the recommended schedules” in place of the “fully vaccinated” term.
WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rajendra Yadav said they also favored including the booster shots that follow the primary series, or the first two COVID-19 doses in the redefinition.
“We prefer to use the term ‘up to date with the recommended schedules,” Yadav said, adding that “fully vaccinated” is a vague term because the definition may change with evolving evidence.
“How many boosters are required? Do we need to keep giving the boosters every six months? We don’t know that yet,” he said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire had said that instead of redefining the term “fully vaccinated,” the DOH was considering adding the term “up to date” for individuals who have received the booster shots.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion had suggested that the term “fully vaccinated” be redefined as those who have received a booster jab could encourage more people to get their boosters, too.
Based on the latest data, at least 66.7 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, some 12.5 million have received their first booster dose
Yadav emphasized that the government needed to continue being proactive in dealing with the COVID-19 situation in the country considering that there were threats of new mutations and strains of the coronavirus disease.
“Unfortunately, many barangays are still nowhere close to 70 percent [target]. Actually, we need to even go much beyond 70 percent to create herd immunity. The local chief executives of the places where barangays have low coverage need to step up reaching the unreached through a last-mile approach,” he said, underscoring the importance of the house-to-house vaccination campaign.
Yadav pointed out that the only way to be on top of COVID-19 and prevent its transmission was to achieve high vaccination coverage, including booster doses.
He added that health protocols, such as wearing face masks and avoiding crowded places, should always be complied with. GMANEWS