Health workers who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 will today be the first to receive booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health said in an advisory late Monday.
Meanwhile, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Tuesday the country may start inoculating fully-vaccinated senior citizens and persons with comorbidities with additional doses of anti-COVID-19 vaccine by next week.
Health authorities earlier said seniors may receive booster shots before the end of the year. The government aims to vaccinate at least 50% of its adult population by yearend.
Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the amended emergency use authorization (EUA) for four COVID-19 vaccines for booster shots and additional doses, the agency’s chief said Tuesday.
The FDA amended the EUA of Pfizer, Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Sputnik Light brands to include an additional shot, FDA chief Eric Domingo said in a taped meeting with officials that aired on radio dzBB on Tuesday.
The DOH had also asked the FDA to check different vaccine combinations, Domingo said.
“We approved Pfizer as a homologous additional third dose, meaning sixmonths after the second dose, another can be given. AstraZeneca was also approved as a homologous third dose, like Sinovac,” Domingo said in Filipino.
He said the FDA authorized the single-shot Sputnik Light "as a heterologous booster."
“This means it can be given as a third dose to a patient that received a different vaccine,” he said.
Domingo said authorities approved booster shots for three groups — health workers with frequent COVID-19 exposure, immunocompromised individuals, and senior citizens with comorbidities.
The Philippines has so far fully immunized some 31.8 million of its 109 million population.
The Department of Health on Monday evening announced that fully-vaccinated health care workers may get booster shots starting Wednesday, Nov. 17.
The FDA recommended using Moderna, Pfizer, and Sinovac as booster doses regardless of the brand used in the primary series.
The National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) is expected to release the guidelines on booster shots today.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said the country may start inoculating fully-vaccinated senior citizens and persons with comorbidities with additional doses by next week.
Booster shots are given when immunity is starting to wane after several months since receiving the vaccine while additional doses, or the third doses, are given to individuals who cannot mount the appropriate immunity against the sickness.
The DOH has allocated a P45 billion budget for the COVID-19 boosters.
Meanwhile, the DOH said the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on booster shots, as well as additional doses, will bedelayed by one to two weeks.
The recommendations of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) were supposed to be released on Nov. 18, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
But Duque, speaking to radio dzBB, said the Philippines may not haveto wait for the WHO recommendations.
“Maybe we can roll out now depending on the advice of our All Experts Group,” he said.
The DOH previously said booster shots and additional doses must have an approved amended EUA as well as the SAGE recommendations.
The Philippines welcomed on Tuesday the arrival of some 1,353,800 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which were procured by the government.
According to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, the vaccines landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 around 9:40 a.m. via flight CI701.
Galvez, who was on hand to receive the vaccines, said they would be allocated to the government’s pediatric vaccination effort as well as for boosters.
In its advisory, the Department of Health recommended using Moderna, Pfizer, and Sinovac as booster doses.
“These vaccines, like Moderna, will be for our three-day national vaccination holiday. We will wrap up most of the vaccines for the first and second dosing,” he added.
The government will hold a three-day national vaccination campaign against COVID-19 from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. The event aims to vaccinate at least 15 million Filipinos in line with the national government’s efforts to achieve population protection by December.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated over 31 million as of Nov. 11, the NTF said.
Galvez said the country has welcomed around 124 million doses and is expecting another 16 million, bringing the total to 140 million by the end of November.
Vaccines that will arrive in December will be used as boosters, he added.
A total of 301,860 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine donated by the United States government through the COVAX facility arrived in the Philippines on Monday night.
Earlier this month, the Philippines received four shipments of PfizerCOVID-19 vaccines, all government procured.
Last month, the Philippines also received a donation of 1,546,200 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and 889,200 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from the US government through the COVAX facility.