DOH eyes 2nd booster shot for some sectors by mid-April
MANILA, Philippines — Health workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbidities may begin receiving their fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose or second booster shot by the end of April, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the department has sought from the Food and Drug Administration an amendment to the emergency use authorization (EUA) for COVID-19 vaccines in the country, to allow their use as a fourth dose or second booster shot.
Once the amended EUA is approved and its guidelines are drawn up, the administration of the new doses “could begin … by the last week of April,” she said at Saturday’s Laging Handa briefing.
Cabotaje said the doses given so far to health workers and the vulnerable population “need … to be strengthened with an additional shot, especially as we fight Omicron and the other variants of concern that may arrive.”
She urged the public in certain areas to get inoculated, as she announced vaccination schedules in the Davao region, Cebu province, and Cotabato City, from March 29 to March 31, and in the Bangsamoro region, from March 30 to April 1.
Latest government data released on Thursday showed that 65.5 million had been fully vaccinated, with 11.7 million given booster doses.
Despite the need for reinforced vaccination, other experts said they anticipate a further easing of restrictions since the country was “cop[ing] better” now with COVID-19.
“We started [out] not sure [of] what to do, but we learned our lessons quickly and tried to apply them as much as we could,” former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said in an interview.
“Still with each surge, we coped better than the last time, helped by the arrival of the vaccines and better anti-COVID drugs as well as increased knowledge and experience by the doctors and other health-care providers on how to treat [the disease].”
Cabral said she “agree[d] with lifting restrictions as the situation allows, so it may happen that we can make masking voluntary instead of mandatory in the future.”
But for Dr. Jomar Rabajante of the University of the Philippines’ Pandemic Response Team, the mask mandate should not be lifted yet, since other countries are still experiencing a resurgence of cases.
Rabajante agreed that restrictions cannot remain “forever,” but that the “new normal,” or Alert Level 1, that remains in effect provides a “good environment for all Filipinos.”
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