MANILA - A second COVID-19 booster shot could be useful for those moderately or severely immunocompromised during a surge in cases, a doctor said Wednesday.
The vaccine expert panel has recommended that a fourth COVID-19 jab be given to the said vulnerable members of the population with an interval of 1 to 3 months upon their doctor's advise, said Dr. Imelda Mateo, citing information from the group of experts.
A second booster shot may also be given to the elderly, persons with comorbidities, and frontline workers such as healthcare and airport personnel with an interval of at least 4 months, according to Mateo, president of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians.
The additional dose offers "small additional protection" against infection from a more transmissible COVID-19 variant such as omicron, which is still useful for those who are immunocompromised, Mateo said, citing general findings of small clinical trials.
"Sa immunocompromised, we need the small percent increase of protection kasi immunocompromised ka nga eh. This small additional protection could be useful for high-risk groups during a surge," she told reporters.
"The relatively small increase in efficacy between the third and fourth doses may be attributed to the fact that protection offered by three doses is already quite high."
The government has yet to authorize the administration of a second booster shot.
Mateo reiterated that unvaccinated virus patients are more likely to suffer from severe and critical illness than those with COVID-19 jabs.
"Mas maraming (There are more) moderate and less severe and mildly symptomatic sa (among) patients who are vaccinated versus unvaccinated. Very seldom do we see na may booster dose na sila na talagang naging critical and severe (those with booster doses who had critical and severe illness)," she said.
"If ever it’s because of the active comorbidities nila. It’s because uncontrolled ang other diseases nila (their other diseases are uncontrolled)."
Those who contract severe form of the respiratory disease are also more likely to suffer from long COVID, Mateo said.
"Nakikita namin na especially those who had the severe form and critical form na nag-survive, nakikita namin ang long-term sequelae sa lungs, shortness of breath, chronic cough," she said.
(We observed long-term sequelae in the lungs, shortness of breath, chronic cough especially in patients who had the severe form and critical form who survived.)
The public is urged to still practice minimum health standards, get vaccinated, and get their comorbidities under control as COVID-19 restrictions ease, she added.
More than 64.5 million people in the Philippines have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of March 13, the health department said. Around 11.1 million booster shots have also been administered.
The government's COVID-19 vaccination dashboard showed that as of March 9, more than 9.2 million people with comorbidities, nearly 6.5 million older adults, and some 2.9 million frontline health workers are already fully inoculated.
For each of those sectors, more than 2 million, 1.8 million and 1.2 million booster doses, respectively, have been administered.