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More 2nd booster shots for COVID-19 pushed

/ 05:46 AM July 21, 2022
An elderly man receiving his first booster shot in Manila

BOOSTER TO BOOSTER File photo shows an elderly man receiving his first booster shot in Manila. —INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider expanding the groups allowed to get second booster shots, particularly those with comorbidities or are between the ages of 50 and 59 years old.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, DOH officer in charge and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said they had asked the FDA to study the matter.

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Vergeire bared the plan as she announced that the DOH has appointed Health Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago as the new incident manager of the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC).

Vergeire, however, clarified that Santiago will still report directly to her.

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Before being appointed DOH officer in charge, Vergeire was appointed to lead the NVOC by former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, replacing former chair Myrna Cabotaje.

Representatives of business groups and the private sector have been urging the government to also include economic front-liners, citing the high acceptance rate among the group.

Vergeire earlier met with President Marcos whom she described as being “very keen on booster doses” to help the country fight COVID-19.

“We have discussed with the President regarding the [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] and we also talked about alert level systems,” Vergeire said.

She said the DOH made recommendations and explained to the President the current alert level system, what has to be improved in our alert level systems, what are the implications, and the current state of the COVID situation.

Different situation now

She added that Mr. Marcos raised “rational points” about the alert level system and “but now we have a different situation where we have other things we need to consider.”

Mr. Marcos just asked the DOH to continue whatever it had been doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Vergeire.

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“We need to study the alert level system carefully and also study what is most appropriate for us today based on how we compare our situation today compared to last year and compared to 2020,” she added. “That was the basis for the different directives that were given.”

As to second boosters, the Health Technology Assessment Council, an independent advisory body to the DOH, has so far approved second boosters only for health workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals.

The last group refers to those in an immunodeficiency state or with an active cancer or malignancy, transplant patients, and those undergoing immunosuppressive treatments or were diagnosed as human immunodeficiency virus-positive.

Vergeire, however, pointed out that the DOH was not keen to recommend second boosters for the general population because the primary doses and first boosters still provided “enough protection” against severe and critical COVID-19.

—KATHLEEN DE VILLA AND ZACARIAN SARAO

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TAGS: COVID-19 booster shots, covid-19 vaccination, Department of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Maria Rosario Vergeire
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