The Department of Health (DOH) is just waiting for an emergency use authorization (EUA) to administer a third dose as part of the primary vaccine series and a booster shot of the coronavirus disease (COVID) vaccines.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, confirmed that DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III has approved the recommendation of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to administer the additional shots.
She said the DOH has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to express its intent to apply for an EUA for the administration of the third dose and booster dose. The EUA covering the vaccines being administered in the country is only for two doses.
"We have submitted a letter to the FDA. Now, we're collating the documents needed to support our application, including the evidence that this practice — administration of third dose and booster shots — is safe and effective for the population," Vergeire said.
"We hope to start administering the additional shots and the booster shots soon," she added.
Assuming there is enough vaccine supply, HTAC recommended the following:
Booster vaccination for health workers (A1) and senior citizens (A2) in the fourth quarter of 2021, or at least six months after the completion of the two-dose primary series;
Booster vaccination in 2022 of other eligible groups under the same prioritization framework, but only if 50% of priority groups A1 to A5 and 70% of the total target population in hotspot areas (Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Calabarzon and Central Luzon) have completed the primary series; and
An additional homologous dose for immunocompromised individuals at least 28 days after the first two doses.
The HTAC also recommended both heterologous and homologous vaccination strategies, with the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine as the most preferred brand.
Recipients of the CoronaVac (Sinovac) primary series may still get the same vaccine as booster shot. However, HTAC specified that the preferred brands for this group are either Pfizer or AstraZeneca.
Those who received two doses of AstraZeneca and Moderna may receive the same vaccine, but the preferred booster shot is Pfizer.
Those who received Pfizer as primary series should receive a Pfizer booster shot while those who received the single-shot Janssen vaccine should get the same vaccine.
Considered immunocompromised are individuals with the following conditions:
Receiving active treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood;
Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system;
Received a stem cell transplant in the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system;
Have DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and other moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency;
Have advanced or untreated HIV infection;
Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress immune response;
Have autoimmune disease and treatment with specific immunosuppressive medications;
Severe malnutrition and other immunocompromised conditions; and
Have rare diseases.
The government is inoculating all eligible citizens, although priority is still given to the senior citizens and persons with comorbidities.
Vaccination of minors 12 to 17 years old who have comorbidities kicked off on Oct. 15 in eight hospitals in Metro Manila. The number of vaccination sites was later expanded to include 13 more hospitals.
As of Oct. 25, Vergeire said nearly 10,000 minors with comorbidities in Metro Manila have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The only vaccines that may be administered to minors 12 to 17 years old are the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Other vaccines that are being administered in the Philippines are the inactivated vaccines from Sinovac and Sinopharm, and the adenovirus-vectored vaccines from AstraZeneca, Gamaleya (Sputnik V) and Janssen.
As of Oct. 24, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said a total of 97,678,340 doses of these vaccines have been delivered to the Philippines.
As of Oct. 22, 25.1 million individuals have been fully vaccinated out of 29.34 million who have received at least one dose. A total of 54,444,161 doses have been administered nationwide. (Ventures Cebu)