President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his call to Filipinos to get COVID-19 booster shots before participating in the May 9 national and local elections.
The President made the call during his regular “Talk to the People” Monday night, reminding the people to get inoculated with a booster to protect them against reinfection, especially for the immunocompromised.
Given the crowding that would ensue in polling centers, it would be good for voters to get their booster shots before they went to the polls, Duterte said, saying this would provide them protection against infection and serious illness.
Last month, the country’s Food and Drug Administration authorized a second booster shot for senior citizens, immunocompromised people, and frontline health workers.
The Health Department has said that the second booster dose should be administered at least four months after the first booster.
Duterte said that while the COVID-19 threat is not as “serious” as before, the public should not let their guard down.
“Complacency is really… the enemy,” he said.
An infectious disease expert on Monday backed proposals to set up vaccination sites near or in polling places of the general elections to increase the COVID-19 primary vaccine series and booster shot coverage.
Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the Department of Health (DOH) Technical Advisory Group, said it would be convenient for voters if they would also be given the opportunity to get their vaccines or booster shots near the voting precincts.
“I think whatever it takes to vaccinate and boost people, is very, very important. We have protocols to reduce risks,” Salvana said.
As of Monday, the DOH reported over 67.9 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or 75.45 percent of the government’s target population.
Meanwhile, some 13.2 million have received their booster shots.
The Commission on Elections said that voters with COVID-19 will be allowed to vote, and isolation polling places would be set up for those who would show up with COVID-19 symptoms on Election Day.
However, the DOH advised those with symptoms to stay at home if they had symptoms on May 9 so as to not transmit the virus.
Also on Monday night, the DOH said it wants to implement a COVID-19 vaccination program in schools for students returning to face-to-face classes.
Duque said the COVID-19 vaccination program for students will be implemented similar to other vaccines for measles and polio already being offered to students.
On Tuesday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the national government’s lack of market commitment may have dampened the interest of pharmaceutical firms to invest in COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in the Philippines.
He said vaccine manufacturers would usually require market commitment or a guarantee of government procurement.
“That is where we could not commit at the moment. I guess we will have to leave it to the next administration on how far they can really commit,” he said.
There were four pharmaceutical firms that the DTI spoke to in 2021.
Based on initial talks, the firms were interested in investing in COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, with the right incentives and guaranteed market for their production.
So far, none have advanced beyond initial discussions given the lack of updates from the DTI.
So far, the only project that successfully hurdled approval from the DTI was the limited manufacture of oral COVID-19 vaccine Mulnopiravir by Lloyd Laboratories.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Compassionate Special Permit (CSP) to Lloyd Laboratories, limited to supplying Recuenco General Hospital a total of 20,000 400mg capsules for one year or until November 2022.
The pharmaceutical firm also applied for a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) with the FDA to make the drug more widely available.
Another oral vaccine project approved by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is led by Filipino firm Savepoint Biotek, Inc. using Israeli technology.
Savepoint partnered with Israeli company MIGAL Galilee Research Institute for the COVID-19 vaccine project.
The vaccine is in the final stretch of clinical research, MIGAL said.
About 70 percent of the project’s output will go to Asia Pacific and African markets and the rest will be for domestic sales.