Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has approved the Health Technology Assessment Council’s (HTAC) recommendation to administer the first Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for children ages 12 to 17.
“Yes, it has been approved, but wait
please for the issuance of implementing guidelines hopefully within the day,” Duque said Tuesday.
In a radio interview also Tuesday, Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) chief Dr. Nina Gloriani said Duque only approved the booster dose from Pfizer because the pharmaceutical firm gave data and applied first for an emergency use authorization with the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Gloriani said the DOH gave the green light due to the waning immunity of the primary vaccine series against COVID-19, and the threats posed by the coronavirus disease’s variants and subvariants.
This developed as the independent OCTA Research Group said a weak surge in COVID-19 cases has started, as the seven-day average of new infections in the National Capital Region (NCR) increased to 212 from June 13 to 19 — 84 percent higher than the previous week.
Although NCR’s growth rate of COVID-19 cases has risen to 72 percent, OCTA noted its hospital utilization rate remains “low” at 22 percent.
Even then, Metro Manila might record around 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily by the end of the month or early July, the independent monitoring group added.
As for the vaccine booster shots, Gloriani said: “Secretary Duque has already signed the approval. We are just waiting for the guidelines which will come very soon. There are just a few technicalities that are being fixed. After that, the boosters can already be administered.”
She was referring to the guidelines for the rollout of booster jabs for minors 12 to 17, which National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) chairperson Myrna Cabotaje said may be released sometime this week.
Gloriani said the booster shots for teenagers might have a lower dose compared to the regular boosters given to the adult population.
“The ages 12 to 17 are quite considered adults, so the boosters might not be different. Although, I have seen a part of the unreleased guidelines that 0.3 mL will be given to them for Pfizer. Usually, I think that’s 0.5 mL, so maybe half a dose will be administered. I’m not too sure about that,” she said.
Gloriani said the booster vaccinations for adolescents may start with the immunocompromised, then the rest of the age group could start “eventually.”
Gloriani also said the VEP is hopeful the HTAC will also recommend the administration of the second booster dose to the general public, despite a member of the DOH’s Technical Advisory Group saying that doing so “does not show significant benefits as opposed to the elderly and immunocompromised.”
Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante on Sunday said a variant-specific vaccine should be given as a booster dose for the general population as it may be more effective against the more transmissible Omicron variant.
Currently, the second booster shot could only be given only to frontline healthcare workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals, the DOH said.
The independent monitoring OCTA Research Group said that a weak surge in COVID-19 cases has started as the seven-day average of new infections in the National Capital Region (NCR) increased to 212 from June 13 to 19.
On the growth of new cases in Metro Manila, OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said: “Before the one-week growth rate was small. It was 8 percent, then 2 percent, then it increased to 19 percent, then 31 percent, and now 84 percent. So, infections are increasing.”
He said the reproduction number in the big city was at 2 as of June 16, while the average daily attack rate per 100,000 population was 1.5.
Reproduction rate refers to the number of people infected by one case. A reproduction number that is below 1 indicates the transmission of the virus is slowing down.
“It’s a weak surge. It’s not alarming. Hospitalizations are low and we don’t foresee any escalation of Alert Levels at this time,” said David.
In a tweet, David said the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in NCR went up from 131 to 225 from June 14 to June 20.
NCR’s reproduction number also climbed to 2.05, while its positivity rate is now at 4 percent, David said.
David noted that the average daily attack rate (ADAR) in NCR is now at 1.6 and may reach up to 7 by the end of June or the first week of July, based on OCTA’s projections.
ADAR pertains to the incidence showing the average number of new cases in a period per 100,000 people.
Metro Manila might also see around 1,000 new COVID cases daily by the end of the month, translating to 7 per 190,000 ADAR, said David.
The increase in COVID-19 cases could peak or end by late July, David said.
“We’re not projecting an increase in hospital utilization. We should still be okay but of course, the public needs to remain vigilant,” he said.