Health dep’t warns of ill effects if booster protocols are ignored
The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday called on the public and local government units (LGUs) to strictly observe the guidelines on the administration of booster shots, particularly the proper intervals between the primary vaccine series and the booster doses against COVID-19.
Violation of the vaccine interval protocol can cause adverse reactions to the vaccinees, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a virtual press briefing.
“The first condition we need to follow in giving booster shots is that it should be given six months after the second dose. That is very clear,” she added.
Expired AztraZeneca doses
This was provided in the DOH guidelines on booster shots administration in accordance with the emergency use authority from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Our citizens might experience other reactions when we give booster shots outside the instructions or guidelines,” she said. Under the guidelines, those who received Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Sputnik V as their primary series may get their booster or additional shots six months after their second dose. Those who got the single-shot Janssen vaccine, however, may get their booster shot after three months.
In the meantime, the DOH appealed to LGUs to accept any vaccine brands distributed in their areas.
“Let us consider that these vaccines are very valuable, these are critical commodities at this time of the pandemic,” Vergeire said.
“Whatever vaccine supplies we deliver to your area, please accept it. All vaccines have the same effect, regardless of the brand. It provides the same effect against severe infections, therefore preventing hospitalization and deaths,” she added.
Vergeire issued the appeal following reports that close to 15,000 doses of AstraZeneca recently expired in Negros Occidental and were not used in the vaccination drive.
Negros Occidental Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz said they were not able to use the vaccines received on Nov. 8 because they were nearing the Nov. 30 expiration and other localities had refused to accept them.
“We value our vaccines. They are important. We want to use them [but] we value more the health and safety of our vaccinees. We don’t want to inject vaccines that are about to expire,” he said.
Shelf life extension
Diaz said they could not roll it out anymore because the potency of the vaccines decreased as the period of expiry nears.
“If expiring vaccines are used, they may not give adequate protection to the recipients and would give a false sense of security,” he said.
For her part, Vergeire said, “we won’t give you expired vaccines. What we gave was near expiry which can still be used.”
According to her, the unused vaccine doses in Negros Occidental are now “stored under defined storage guidelines” in the event they will still be used.
“We have coordinated with the manufacturers to find out if they will apply for extension of the shelf life of these vaccines,” she said.
The provincial government of Negros Occidental intends to return the expired AstraZeneca vaccines to the DOH.
Vergeire said the DOH was working on ways to further improve the processes concerning the vaccines.
The DOH is studying the possibility of extending the shelf life of some COVID-19 vaccines.
She noted that the government was able to make use of the near-expiry Pfizer vaccine doses after its shelf life was extended for another three months.
Stocked in cold room
Pfizer submitted to the DOH and the FDA data that proved that the vaccine’s shelf life could be extended from six months to nine months, said Vergeire, adding that the DOH was hoping other vaccine manufacturers would follow suit.
Dr. Claudelia Josefa Pabillo, Negros Occidental designated cold chain coordinator, said the expired vaccines were stocked in the cold room but separated from the rest of the vaccine supplies.
“We can’t throw these out because these are biological products. There is a different method for its disposal,” she added.
Pabillo, in a letter to Dr. Adriano Suba-an, the DOHr egional director, said they received 4,530 vials (10 doses per vial), or 45,300 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, on Nov. 8, and 3,172 vials (eight doses per vial), or 15,376 doses, on Oct. 25, all with expiration dates of Nov. 30.
“The unutilized 1,462 vials were from the Nov. 8 batch,” she said.
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