DOH okays boosters for health workers, seniors

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has approved a recommendation by the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to give booster shots and additional jabs against Covid-19 for priority groups, provided there is sufficient vaccine supply and inoculation targets are reached.

According to its Oct 13 letter to Duque, the council recommended that the first in line to get booster shots will be the healthcare workers and this will be done during the last three months of the year. They will be followed by seniors and “eligible priority groups” next year.

An additional, or third dose, will be given starting this year to immunocompromised individuals, but only after 28 days from completion of the initial Covid-19 vaccine series.

A note from a source close to HTAC indicated that Duque approved and signed the recommendation on Oct 21.

It is still unclear whether the recommendation would need approval from President Rodrigo Duterte or the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that he has yet to confirm the HTAC recommendation with Duque.

The HTAC said the World Health Organisation (WHO) had advised that immunocompromised individuals with insufficient immune response must be prioritised for an additional dose, especially when there is evidence of waning immunity from Covid-19.

According to the WHO, booster doses are administered to a vaccinated population that has completed a primary vaccination series of one or two shots, depending on the brand, and whose immunity and protection have fallen below a rate deemed sufficient in the covered population.

Additional doses may be needed for a target population that needs to “enhance the immune response to a sufficient level of effectiveness against the disease,” the WHO said.

The government’s classification of priority groups in its vaccination drive is as follows: frontline healthcare workers (A1), senior citizens (A2), persons with comorbidities (A3), frontliners in essential sectors (A4), indigent population (A5), and the rest of the population.

“We emphasise that these recommendations are being offered in consideration of sufficient vaccine supply and acceptable coverage for primary vaccination,” the HTAC letter read. — Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

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