WHO pushes third dose for those vaxxed with Sinovac, Sinopharm

The World Health Organization’s vaccine advisers on Monday recommended people with weakened immune systems should be offered an additional dose of all WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

The United Nations health agency’s experts also said over-60s fully immunized with China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines should be offered an additional third vaccine dose.

The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) stressed it was not recommending an additional booster dose for the population at large, which is already being rolled out in some countries.

The WHO wants a moratorium on booster doses for the general population until the end of the year to give priority to first doses in the dozens of nations starved of vaccines.

The WHO’s target of getting 10 percent of the population in each country fully vaccinated by the end of September was missed by 56 states. However almost 90 percent of high-income countries hit the target.

SAGE said it would review the issue of general booster doses on Nov. 11.

Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director general Eric Domingo, meanwhile, said there is no need to administer COVID-19 booster shots right now as there is no waning effect in the vaccines yet.

Domingo, in a briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte early Tuesday, said the low number of breakthrough COVID-19 infections means there is still no need to administer booster shots among fully vaccinated individuals.

Domingo said the FDA reported 516 breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated individuals nationwide, which represent only 0.0025 percent of the 20.3 million fully vaccinated in the country.

“At the fifth month, if we see a lowering of the vaccine protection, there would be [more] breakthrough infections,” he said. “But we have not seen it at this time.”

Earlier, the Department of Health said there is no complete evidence yet on the need for boosters.

Several COVID-19 vaccines have been given WHO approval for emergency use during the pandemic: Pfizer-BioNTech, Janssen, Moderna, Sinopharm, Sinovac and AstraZeneca.

They are all two-dose vaccines, except the Janssen jab.

The WHO is also on the verge of deciding whether to give emergency use listing (EUL) to India’s Bharat Biotech jab. Full story on

SAGE held a four-day meeting last week to review the latest information and data on a range of vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases.

“SAGE recommended that moderately and severely immunocompromised persons should be offered an additional dose of all WHO EUL COVID-19 vaccines as part of an extended primary series,” the group said.

“These individuals are less likely to respond adequately to vaccination following a standard primary vaccine series and are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease.”

Kate O’Brien, the WHO’s vaccines chief, said the extra dose now should be considered as part of the normal coronavirus immunization course for people with weaker immune systems, to be administered after a wait of one to three months.

It should bring their level of protection up to that demonstrated to prevent against severe disease, hospitalization, and death in clinical trials -- from which people with immunocompromised conditions were excluded.

O’Brien said there is a clear distinction between giving a third shot versus administering booster doses.

She said giving booster doses to individuals who already have had the benefit of a primary response has been explained before.

“It’s like putting two life jackets on somebody and leaving other people without any life jackets.”

SAGE also said that for people fully immunized with Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines -- both two-dose regimens -- an additional third shot of the same jab “should be offered to persons aged 60 and above.”

A different vaccine “may also be considered based on vaccine supply and access considerations.”

SAGE added that when implementing this recommendation, countries should initially aim at maximizing two-dose coverage in that population, and thereafter administer the third dose, starting in the oldest age groups.

“We have evidence of a more limited protection in the old population, particularly in the very old,” SAGE secretary Joachim Hombach told a press conference.

The Sinopharm jab is used in 69 countries, while Sinovac has been rolled out in 36, according to an Agence France-Presse count.

Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and the Philippines are among the countries using both jabs, besides China.

Most of the information on which the new Sinovac and Sinopharm recommendations were made comes from studies in Latin America, said SAGE chair Alejandro Cravioto.

The Philippines’ biggest vaccine stock is Sinovac with a total of 41.5 million doses, while the country has only received 1.1 million doses of Sinopharm.

A total of 4.49 million senior citizens have been fully vaccinated, but the government is not releasing the breakdown per brand.

SAGE also said an additional dose of all WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.

Topics: World Health Organization , United Nations , Food and Drug Administration , Strategic Advisory Group of Experts , Department of Health
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