Fewer than 1 percent of more than 9.1 million people who had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the start of August have experienced a “breakthrough” infection, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Friday.
A COVID-19 infection is considered a “breakthrough” if it occurs more than 14 days after receipt of the second dose of a vaccine.
FDA Director General Eric Domingo, during a Department of Health (DOH) forum, said only 0.0013 percent or 116 breakthrough cases were recorded out of 9,115,963 fully vaccinated individuals as of Aug. 1.
Among the 116 breakthrough cases, only one fatality was recorded. Domingo said the patient was an elderly male who died of COVID-19.
Domingo said there were 91 breakthrough cases among individuals fully vaccinated with Sinovac, 24 among AstraZeneca recipients, and one among Pfizer recipients. No breakthrough infections had so far been recorded from other brands.
Domingo said while no vaccine can provide 100 percent protection, the figures showed that the efficacy of the jabs are very high.
He said some people still contract COVID-19 despite being fully inoculated against the virus because each person’s level of immunogenicity is different.
“We react differently to vaccines,” he said in Filipino. “There will always be breakthrough cases. Not only with COVID vaccines but with all vaccines for all diseases.”
The FDA has yet to collate data on which COVID-19 variants were present in breakthrough cases, he said.
The Department of Health (DOH) noted that those who got the virus despite receiving two doses of COVID-19 vaccines were asymptomatic patients or only developed mild symptoms of the disease.
“This means vaccines work. We are protected from hospitalization and dying,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
Those who were hospitalized due to adverse events after vaccination may claim up to P100,000 from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), she said, noting that these events are “rare.”
Those who will be proven to have died or were disabled due to serious adverse events following immunization are entitled to a lump sum of P100,000 from PhilHealth, she said.
Meanwhile, a health expert said a booster or third shot of any COVID-19 vaccine can help increase a person’s immunity to the disease, but so far this is not allowed in the Philippines.
“There’s enough data abroad that supports a third dose because the immunity goes down after six months. But that is not allowed for now but we also know that that is happening,” said Dr. Nina Gloriani, head of the Vaccine Expert Panel.
Gloriani, in an interview on TeleRadyo, said all of the vaccines against COVID-19 approved for use in the Philippines have a good safety profile.
However, there is no recommendation yet about booster shots as the country is still ramping up vaccination of priority sectors like health workers (A1), senior citizens (A2), and individuals with comorbidities (A3).
San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora has admitted to receiving four shots of the COVID-19 vaccines. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the lawmaker was advised to take a booster shot because of “serious comorbidities.”
Gloriani said that while the Philippines has an inadequate vaccine supply, doses should be given to those who have yet to receive any.
“A lot of people want to get a booster shot but there are still many who have not received even a single dose,” she said.
The DOH on Friday criticized persons who have received booster shots after full vaccination, saying millions remain unvaccinated because of limited supply.
This followed an ABS-CBN News report on Thursday on the double vaccination scheme posted by a man on his social media account after he was supposedly fully vaccinated by Sinovac in Mandaluyong last May and got another shot of Moderna this week in Quezon City.
He said he got “boostered” and thanked the people who helped him achieve this.
Local authorities have confirmed his vaccine records and have launched an investigation into the incident, with the Quezon City government vowing possible legal action.
The DOH said it will reach out to the person to monitor possible side effects, she said.
“We are trying to get the details of this. We saw this on a social media platform. We are already reaching out to the vaccination center,” Vergeire said.
“We do not have any legal sanctions yet for these people but I hope they are thinking that this is morally unethical,” she said.
The country still struggles to get hold of steady COVID-19 vaccine supply, with millions of Filipinos yet to get their first doses.
“Whatever vaccines you received, you are depriving another person who could have received it. There are people who did not receive their vaccines because of you. Being compassionate during the pandemic is very important,” she said.
Vergeire said that booster shots are still prohibited in the country for the lack of data available.
She urged other people who had double vaccinations to monitor side effects, and go to the nearest inoculation site should something happen to them.
Meanwhile, Manila breached the 1 million mark in its vaccinations on Thursday, with 1,007,711 people getting their jabs.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said of the number, 667,440 have been fully vaccinated.
He also said the total number of vaccines deployed is 1,636, 354.
The city’s eligible population of 18 to 100 years old is 1,065,149.
“With this being the target to achieve 80 percent population protection, the city has made it. While the city’s entire population is about 1.9 million including those 17 and younger, the target percentage cannot be achieved with the inclusion of minors since inoculating this age group is not yet being allowed by the Department of Health,” Domagoso said.
He also said the Manila Infectious Disease Control Center (MIDCC) in Sta. Ana Hospital, designated as the city of Manila’s ‘COVID Center’ at the height of the pandemic last year, is now at full capacity
While the Sta. Ana Hospital is full, Domagoso said the occupancy rate at the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital (MCFH) in Luneta has gone down to 92 percent as of Aug. 12.
He also announced that Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna, who contracted COVID recently, continues to be confined at the Sta. Ana Hospital in the city’s sixth district.
The occupancy rate in the other city-run hospitals is now at 55 percent while 21 percent occupancy was registered in the quarantine facilities.
There are now 208 confirmed, active COVID cases in Manila with 146 recoveries and four deaths while 141,795 have been given free swab testing so far.