The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on the administration of booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines, given the inequitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.
WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe defines a booster as a 3rd dose for people who have already completed a two-dose regimen of the anti-COVID jabs.
Citing global vaccine inequity as a primary reason for the moratorium, Abeyasinghe said there is currently not enough evidence pointing to fully-vaccinated individuals requiring a third dose, but there may be exceptions.
“The only exception to this is when those 2 doses have not been able to generate required immunity because some people have immunocompromised situations, they may require a 3rd dose. When we’re talking about immunocompromised people it may be elderly or people who have other immune problems that may require a booster dose,” he said.
Based on current data, Abeyasinghe said 90% of high and middle income countries have reached the target of inoculating 10% of their population while 70% have already reached the target of vaccinating 40% of their people.
Unfortunately, he said “not a single low and middle income country has reached either of these targets.”
Meanwhile, in an address recorded Monday night but aired Tuesday morning, President Rodrigo Duterte said it is possible that vaccination would be available to the general population once the country gets a stable supply of jabs.
“I’d like the people to know that we are studying the possibility of vaccinating the general adult population as early as October if there is a stable vaccine supply,” Duterte said.
If the government lifts the priority restrictions next month, adult Filipinos can go to vaccination sites near them to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Duterte said.
Also, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Tuesday the government has already secured the financing for and ordered enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate 100 million Filipinos by the end of the year. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
As of Sept. 12, he said the vaccines financed and ordered by the national government totaled 121.13 million doses, while another 50.12 million doses are from donations by the Philippines’ bilateral partners, and from the country’s share in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX).
Dominguez said the 24.12 million doses procured by local government units and the private sector round up the total of 195.37 million doses that the Philippines has secured to inoculate 100 million of its residents.
He said to achieve the government’s target of completing its vaccination program for 100 million Filipinos by yearend, the country needs to receive about 9 million doses per week, given that as of Sept. 5, the vaccines delivered already total 52.79 million doses.
As of yesterday, only 17 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, the Department of Health reported.
Dominguez earlier reported to President Duterte that financing for the vaccines has been secured and the stocks ordered from the pharmaceutical companies.
He said he received assurances from the National Task Force against COVID-19 that the vaccines would go into arms as soon as possible.
“As soon as the vaccines arrive, they are actually deployed, and people are inoculated. But again, the pharmaceutical companies had some difficulty in making the deliveries," Dominguez said in a Cabinet meeting with President Duterte.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. reported to the President that the government is expecting “much bigger volumes” of vaccines this month and in October of 61 million doses with a steady supply of Sinovac, Pfizer and the US-COVAX donations.
Dominguez said the financing and negotiations for the vaccines have already been completed and that the government is only waiting for the pharmaceutical companies “to step up to the plate” and deliver on their commitment.
Of the 52.79 million doses delivered so far, Dominguez said 17.12 million were donations from bilateral partners and from COVAX, 32.09 million were procured by the national government, while the LGUs and the private sector acquired 3.57 million doses.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned the P45.37 billion allocation for COVID-19 booster shots in the proposed P5.024 trillion national budget for next year.
From the data provided by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), Lacson noted that a total of 36.2 million doses have been administered as of Sept. 7, 2021.
This consisted of 20.9 million for the first dose and 15.3 million for the second dose or complete dose.
The senator said the figure is a far cry from the target of inoculating 60 million adult Filipinos.
“So, how can we fully vaccinate adult Filipinos by the end of October?" Lacson said.
“Maybe we can just allocate the P45.37 billion for next year’s budget for other purposes... we are lagging behind,” he said.
The Palace said Tuesday that the IATF has yet to decide on the recommendation of the Vaccine Expert Panel to give medical front-liners a booster shot for added protection against COVID-19.
The Department of Health said Monday that its All Expert Group is still deliberating on the VEP’s proposal.
On Saturday, infectious diseases expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said booster shots should already be given to health workers, especially those who received Sinovac in March.
Solante, a member of the VEP, said studies showed that antibodies from Sinovac waned after six to eight months.
Medical front liners were among those who received the first Sinovac vaccines.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said at least 50 percent of the population should first be fully vaccinated against
COVID-19 before the government starts administering booster jabs.
In the House, lawmakers filed a resolution urging the IATF to provide booster shots to health care workers and the immunocompromised.
The resolution was signed by Reps. Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig City, Maria Laarni Cayetano of Taguig, Michael Defensor of Taguig, Dan Fernandez of Laguna, Raneo Abu of Batangas and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan.
“Nearly two years into the pandemic, the Philippines has struggled to vaccinate more than a small fraction of its population due to shortages in supply,” the resolution reads.
Providing extra protection to those who are most vulnerable due to their line of duty of physical compromise is a “moral imperative and a practical necessity to prevent the collapse of our healthcare system,” it added.
The resolution points out that the WHO has found that 23,611 Filipino healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus as of the end of August.
“Despite government programs inoculating frontline health care workers as early as six months ago in March 2021, immunity for health workers has not been achieved,” the lawmakers said.
The resolution also cites a study conducted by Chinese researchers on the antibody prevalence in those vaccinated with Sinovac, the most widely used COVID-19 vaccine brand in the Philippines, “which foundthat effectivity declines below a key threshold around six months following the second dose.”