The government has allocated more than 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for booster shots for at least 1.6 million health care workers and their dependents.
“The administration of booster shots will be carried out alongside with our more aggressive vaccination rollout for the general and younger population,” said National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
“With this measure, we are confident that we will be able to continue scaling up our country’s vaccine throughput, bring down our active cases and death and achieve population protection within the year,” he added.
The government started administering COVID-19 booster shots for health workers on Wednesday.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said health care workers can opt to use the same vaccine brand (homologous) or a different one (heterologous) from the initial series they received, but will still be based on the brand mixing approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration.
The Health secretary also cited FDA guidelines warning not to mix mRNA COVID-19 vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna with traditional vaccines like Sinovac.
In preparation for the Vaccination Days set on Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, Galvez said they will open up to 10,000 vaccination sites, and employ 25,000 to 50,000 vaccinators for the massive three-day inoculation drive.
Galvez expressed optimism that the government’s target of achieving a 1.5 million daily jab rate can be achieved.
“With our current pace and the eagerness of all sectors of society to hit and sustain a daily jab rate of 1.5 million, we are confident that by the end of November, half of our target population will be fully vaccinated,” he said.
He noted that the country’s COVID-19 supply inventory has now reached 124,914,000 doses and will continue to grow in the coming days and weeks.
The National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC), meanwhile, said health care workers who were vaccinated with AstraZeneca vaccines for the first two shots should get a different brand for their booster shot.
There is a "theoretical possibility of pre-existing immunity attenuating or weakening the immune response on the second or third dose" for vector-based vaccines such as AstraZeneca, the NVOC said in a memorandum.
Recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine may be vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna for their booster doses, but must wait for six months after the completion of their primary series before getting booster shots.
Dr. Edsel Salvana of the Department of Health-Technical Advisory Group said, however, that this was only a "theoretical risk."
“There is one study that says this does not seem to be the case. It’s really more of a theoretical risk. When we’re talking about boosters, there are really just two things we’re talking about: safety and efficacy,” Salvana said at the DOH town hall meeting.
“From a safety standpoint, there doesn’t seem to be any problems with the third dose of Astra. The question then becomes efficacy,” Salvana said.
The adenovirus carrier of the booster shot may be unable to deliver its viral material into the cell by the third dose due to preformed antibodies, Salvana said.
“This may also hold true, again theoretical, with the other adenovirus vaccines like Jannsen and Gamaleya,” he added.
The FDA said Thursday that several brands of COVID-19 vaccines could soon be sold in drugstores as early as the first quarter of 2022 once these are given full approval. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
"My prediction is early next year, by the first quarter, not only Pfizer maybe several of the existing vaccines will get full approval for marketing authorization," FDA Director General Eric Domingo said in an interview with ANC.
Full approval is granted when the FDA has amassed enough scientific evidence to support use of the COVID-19 vaccines, showing that the benefits of the vaccine are greater than its risks, and that the vaccines can be manufactured reliably, safely and with consistent quality.
The FDA has so far granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to nine vaccine brands, which include Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty), AstraZeneca, Sinovac (CoronaVac), Gamaleya Institute (Sputnik V), Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), Bharat Biotech (Covaxin), Moderna, Sinopharm, and Novovax (Covovax).
Under an EUA, only the government can procure the vaccines while private firms may buy it through a tripartite agreement.
The United States FDA granted Pfizer full authorization in August. Pfizer has yet to apply for full approval in the Philippines, Domingo said.
"We did ask them and they said they were completing their documents and requirements…It's not going to take long but they haven’t applied yet. It’s probably because the company is not yet ready to supply the doses. Maybe they’re concentrating on one market at this time,” he said.
The FDA has also granted an EUA to investigational drug ronapreve for COVID-19 treatment, Domingo said.
Another drug, molnupiravir, can be accessed through hospitals with a compassionate use permit, Domingo added.. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
The Philippines logged 1,297 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 2,821,753.
The COVID-19 positivity rate was at 3.4 percent, based on samples of 42,043 people tested on Nov. 16. The positivity rate is already below the World Health Organization's (WHO) requirement of 5 percent.
There were 305 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 46,422.
The DOH also reported 1,956 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,752,173.
There were 23,158 active cases, of which 58.5 percent were mild, 4.1 percent were asymptomatic, 5.2 percent were critical, 12.2 percent were severe, and 19.96 percent were moderate.
The number of active cases is the lowest in 10 months, or since Jan. 17 when there were 22,762 active infections.
Nationwide, 34 percent of ICU beds, 28 percent of isolation beds, 20 percent of ward beds, and 20 percent of ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 32 percent of ICU beds, 24 percent of isolation beds, 24 percent of ward beds, and 22 percent of ventilators, were in use.