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Galvez: Booster shots eyed for health workers in November

/ 05:38 AM October 07, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Wednesday said the National Task Force Against COVID-19 was planning a six to eight-month “revaccination” cycle, pending approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH).

Revaccination is the process of administering a vaccine again some period after an initial inoculation mainly to strengthen or renew the immune response to the targeted virus.

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During a vaccination event for tourism workers in Taytay, Rizal, Galvez added that the more than 700 health-care workers who received their first dose of the vaccine in March would be the first to get boosters as early as next month.

“They will be the first to get a third shot, by either November or maybe January 2022,” Galvez said, noting that the revaccination cycle would most likely be implemented in the rest of the country in the first quarter of 2022.

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“Based on our reading, we really need that third dose,” Galvez said, citing studies published in The Lancet, one of the world’s top peer-reviewed medical publications, and The New England Journal of Medicine, the prestigious medical periodical published by the Massachusetts Medical Society.

The DOH earlier said it was still not recommending booster shots to the public “as a matter of equity” since there was still a shortage of vaccine supply in the country, echoing the WHO’s recommendation to vaccinate a larger portion of the population first before administering booster shots.

But on Wednesday, Galvez said the country has reached an “inflection point” where the supply of vaccines was greater than the demand, or the capacity of the government to safely store the jabs.

“This is why we opened to other sectors, since we were worried that the volume of vaccines will surpass our storage capacity,” Galvez added, referring to the recent decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to allow a pilot implementation program for pediatric vaccinations.

Under the pilot program, which is set to begin on Oct. 15, minors age 12 to 17 who have underlying medical conditions will be considered as part of the government’s A3 category or persons with comorbidities.

Galvez said the pilot rollout of pediatric vaccination has also been expanded to eight hospitals from six.

Galvez said that St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City and Makati Medical Center would be included in the list of hospitals to offer pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations.

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New cases

The other hospitals are the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, the National Children’s Hospital, the Philippine Heart Center, Pasig City Children’s Hospital, Fe Del Mundo Medical Center and the Philippine General Hospital.

On Wednesday, the DOH said it recorded 9,868 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total in the country to 2,622,917.

However, in its daily case bulletin, the DOH said the relatively lower case counts are “due to lower laboratory output last Monday.” The DOH also failed to report any new deaths, citing persistent issues with COVIDKaya, the agency’s repository for COVID-19 data. The death toll stood at 38,838 for the third straight day.

The DOH did report that an additional 133 patients have recovered, pushing the total number of survivors to 2,471,282. It was the lowest since March 30, when there were 103 recoveries tallied.

The new recoveries left 112,807 active cases or currently sick patients in the country.

The DOH reported that the positivity rate has gone down further to 18.2 percent. This was still well above the WHO’s recommendation to keep the number below 5 percent to ensure that transmission was controlled.

In the same case bulletin, the DOH also said 71 percent of all beds in the intensive care unit and 61 percent of all ward beds remained occupied, while 57 percent of isolation beds and 53 percent of mechanical ventilators were in use.

Repurposed drugs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also said on Wednesday that three brands of tocilizumab, a repurposed drug to help treat COVID-19, have been approved in the country, while three other brands of baricitinib, which is similar to tocilizumab, have been given authorization.

FDA Director General Eric Domingo added during the Laging Handa public briefing that a multicountry study on molnupiravir, a possible anti-COVID-19 drug, included the Philippines.

Domingo said interim analysis in the multicountry study on Merck & Co.-produced molnupiravir found it to prevent possibly 50 percent of people from progressing to severe COVID-19 and dying.

There are currently no approved drugs to treat COVID-19, but some drugs with different purposes such as tocilizumab and remdesivir have shown some effectivity in fighting the virus.

Domingo said at present, the tocilizumab brands approved in the country included Actemra and RoActemra, licensed by Swiss company Roche, and Tenziba. Recently approved was Livzon, which is produced in China, he said.

In the same briefing, Domingo warned the public against buying medicines from the black market since these were likely fake and, at best, would not help someone get better from COVID-19 or, at worst, even contribute to a patient’s deterioration.

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TAGS: booster shots for health workers, Carlito Galvez Jr., COVID-19 booster shots
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