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Adults can have booster shots starting Dec. 3 — DOH

05:34 AM December 03, 2021
booster

A medical worker of the Rafael Lazatin Memorial Medical Center in Angeles City gets her booster shot against COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of the Angeles City government)

The government will start administering on Friday, Dec. 3, COVID-19 booster shots to all fully vaccinated adults, the Department of Health (DOH) announced in an advisory on Thursday.

Under the DOH guidelines, homologous doses (same brand) will be available to those who received Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna as their primary vaccines.

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There are still no supplies of Sputnik V and Janssen for homologous shots.

As for heterologous doses (mixed brand), the DOH said AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could be administered as booster shots or additional doses for those who were jabbed with Sinovac, Sputnik V and Janssen.

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Pfizer and Moderna shots may also be given to those vaccinated with AstraZeneca; Moderna and AstraZeneca for those inoculated with Pfizer, and Pfizer and AstraZeneca for those who got Moderna shots.

Priorities

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire pointed out that those 18 years old and above could avail themselves of the booster shots six months after their second dose for all vaccines except Janssen, which should be taken three months after the single dose.

Vergeire, in a television interview, also reminded local government units to still prioritize the vaccination of health-care workers, senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals.

“The amended emergency use authorization (EUA) says it can be given to 18 years old and above although there is a specific guidance from the Food and Drug Administration—and it is also included in our guidelines—that the priority should still be there,” she said.

“For boosters, we still prioritize health-care workers, seniors and immunocompromised. After these groups have been vaccinated, that’s when we vaccinate 18 years old and above,” Vergeire added.

The country’s chief economist also suggested yearly booster shots that the government could provide for free next year, but partly shouldered by the private sector starting 2023.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told alumni of the Asian Institute of Management in a virtual meeting Wednesday night that the government should give mobility perks to the vaccinated while penalizing those who chose not to be jabbed.

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Cost sharing

“It’s good that boosters are already approved for a big part of the population. We prepare boosters for the next two years, but maybe starting 2023, the private sector could share in the cost, especially if it will be given commercial approval,” said Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

The government will borrow at least $800 million from multilateral lenders, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank before this year ends to buy booster vaccines as well as pediatric doses for kids under the expanded mass vaccination program.

The government targets to inoculate 70 million adults this year to achieve herd immunity, but the Philippines lagged behind its Asean neighbors as only about two-fifths of its population had been fully vaccinated to date.

Many rural areas are also behind their urban counterparts’ vaccination rates.

“Let’s remove all the barriers that hinder many from getting vaccinated,” Chua said.

School vaccinations

In his presentation, he said this could be done by “expanding vaccination sites, including work sites and schools; allowing firms to use their vaccine stock, and using technology to reduce the wait and processing time.”

For Chua, “incentives and penalties for vaccination, I think, are crucial, and many countries are moving towards that.”

Specifically, he said the vaccinated should enjoy free movement, while those unvaccinated should be subjected to regular testing and quarantine “at [their] own expense.”

Chua said the country must also “prepare vaccinating children as young as 3 years old, and it’s important that when schools do open, we vaccinate as many as we can in the schools.”

He said vaccination among children should be expanded to ages 5 to 17 and this could be more effectively done in schools when they reopen in January 2022. Chua estimated that the Philippines has about 32.8 million children between 3 and 17 years old.

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