The Department of Health (DOH) said Friday that it has already asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to amend the emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines so they can administer a fourth dose to people in the priority population and a booster shot for children aged 12 to 17.
“We already submitted a request to the FDA for the EUA to be amended for this fourth dose and a booster shot for children,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press conference.
Vergeire said if the FDA issues the amended EUA, this will be forwarded to the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) for evaluation.
“Right now we can see our area still maintains the minimal risk case classification. We haven’t recorded an increase in hospital admission,” she said.
The DOH has attributed the decline in virus infections to high vaccination coverage and the public’s adherence to minimum health standards.
The Philippines last week recorded an average of 357 new COVID-19 cases per day, down 2 percent from the previous week, Vergeire said. Its positivity rate declined to 1.8 percent last week versus 2 percent the previous week, Vergeire added.
Some 31,206 virus patients are asymptomatic or have mild to moderate symptoms while 1,257 suffer from severe and critical illness, according to the spokesperson.
Some 12.3 million out of 66.5 million fully vaccinated persons have received their booster shot as of Thursday, Vergeire said. Around 1.1 million children ages 5 to 11 have been fully inoculated while 9 million adolescents have received their primary series, she added.
A study on Friday said people who are vaccinated and have had a booster shot against COVID-19 recover from symptoms from the Omicron variant more than three days earlier than those with the Delta variant.
The study also found that people with Omicron are significantly less likely to lose their sense of smell, and confirmed previous research that it is less severe.
To find out the differences in how Omicron and Delta make sufferers sick, researchers used a free smart phone app called ZOE on which more than 63,000 vaccinated people in Britain aged 16-99 self-reported their COVID symptoms between June 2021 and January 2022.
For those with two vaccine doses plus a booster, symptoms from Omicron lasted 4.4 days, compared to 7.7 for Delta—a difference of 3.3 days.
People who had two doses but no booster shot saw Omicron symptoms clear up in 8.3 days, compared to 9.6 days for Delta, according to the study published in the Lancet medical journal.
The swifter recovery suggests “that the period of infectiousness might be shorter, which would in turn impact workplace health policies and public health guidance,” the researchers said.
The study, which will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon later this month, also found that only 17 percent of those with Omicron lost their sense of smell, compared to 53 percent for Delta.
However, people with Omicron had a 55-percent increased risk of getting a sore throat, and were 24 percent more likely to develop a hoarse voice.
The study also found that Omicron patients were 25 percent less likely to be admitted to hospital.
Study author Cristina Menni of King’s College London said it was the first peer-reviewed paper with a large number of participants that looked at the different symptoms of the two variants.
While the study covered a period before the Omicron BA.2 variant swept the world, “recent data from the app show no change in symptoms in BA.2 compared to BA.1,” she said.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said the Philippines has yet to detect a case of recombinant variants XD, XE, and XF as its COVID-19 infections plateaued.
The latest run of genome sequencing last month detected Omicron in 80 percent of the samples and two cases of the Delta variant in Cagayan Valley and Western Visayas, Vergeire said.
“We have not yet detected a recombinant variant in the country. We have not yet detected XE, XF, and XD.”
But she added that the DOH cannot be certain that the recombinant variants have not entered the country, given that genome sequencing is not very extensive.
She said XE has been characterized as being 10 percent more infectious than the Omicron variant. With AFP