Prioritize vaccinating population with booster dose – health expert
MANILA, Philippines — An infectious disease expert on Thursday stressed the need to continue prioritizing vaccinating the general population with booster doses while procuring variant-specific vaccines.
Dr. Rontgene Solante said this as he explained the importance of procuring bivalent vaccines – a type of vaccine that targets specific variants of COVID-19, like the more transmissible Omicron.
“But we have to also balance that in terms of resources or is it readily available in resource-limited settings like asian countries or the Philippines so that should be a part of the government plan to really acquire such a booster vaccine,” said Solante during a roundtable discussion hosted by the Philippine College of Physicians.
“But as of this moment I think the importance is really to emphasize booster vaccination of the population with the current vaccine platform,” he added.
Meanwhile, Solante also expressed the possibility of the Philippines implementing an annual or biannual inoculation of booster doses, much like the US — which is also eyeing to introduce the policy after the rollout of bivalent vaccines.
“In likelihood, I think there will be an annual booster, but we don’t know the schedule yet but most likely the target population will still be the vulnerable population,” said Solante.
He also explained that this would still depend on the coming months, specifically on what variants are most dominant during that period.
“We don’t know if it’s still Omicron subvariant, if it’s still an Omicron subvariant then we will be focusing on a variant-specific as an annual booster if there are new variants emerging then it will now depend on what vaccine we will be giving,” said Solante.
“And I think if we’re giving the annual booster it will be more focused on the vulnerable population because the more important objective now is protecting this vulnerable population in developing a severe infection,” he added.
COVID-19 boosters are effective
Meanwhile, in the same roundtable discussion, various health experts in Asia also reiterated that COVID-19 booster shots are effective against COVID-19, especially in preventing severe cases and deaths due to the more transmissible Omicron variant.
According to Dr. Suwat Chariyalertsak, of Chiang Mai University Thailand, studies have shown that third and fourth doses — first and second booster shots — of COVID-19 vaccines prevented 85 percent of 18- to 49-year-old adults from death and developing severe symptoms; as well as 89 percent of 50- to 69-year-old adults; and 97 percent of those aged 70 and above.
Meanwhile, no deaths or severe cases were recorded among those who have received their fourth vaccine dose.
Chariyalertsak also noted that the appropriate interval between booster doses is not yet clear.
“Vaccine effectiveness against severe outcomes appears to wane slightly after 3 months, but it is not yet clear what the appropriate booster dosing interval should be moving forwards,” he said.
“Patients who received a third dose 14 days to 3 months previous had the highest risk reduction against severe COVID-19 outcomes (93%) [versus] those who had received the third dose 3 to 6 months previous = 87%.” he added.
Vaccine expert Dr. Bruce Mungall, for his part, reiterated that while there may be adverse effects due to the vaccines, “adverse events are often quite rare.”
“The risk of these adverse events is generally lower with a second dose of the vaccine,” said Mungall.
“The risks associated with a COVID-19 infection far outweighs the risk associated with the vaccines,” he added.
Mungall said that globally, 12.5 million vaccines have already been administered saving 19.8 million lives.
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