MANILA — With coronavirus cases in the Philippines still increasing, the government’s vaccine expert panel (VEP) will be recommending that COVID-19 survivors be vaccinated 14 days after recovery instead of the prescribed 90-day period.
“Gagawa pa lang kami ng letter sa VEP (VEP will come up with a letter) to make that recommendation not to wait for the 90 days period for you to receive the vaccine,” said Dr. Rontgene Solante, San Lazaro Hospital’s adult infectious diseases division chief and member of the VEP.
During a Department of Health briefing, Solante told media that 2 weeks or 14 days after recovery should be enough for those who want to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Solante said they will send the VEP’s recommendation to the DOH for evaluation.
He also pointed out that the government recently amended the 90-day waiting time for those who already received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.
The DOH’s Department Memorandum 2021-0157 released on March 30, 2021 amends an earlier department order stating that those who get infected with COVID-19 after their first dose should wait after 90 days and then be vaccinated again with a first dose. The amended provision states that “All vaccine recipients who contracted COVID-19 after the first dose may be given the second dose provided a recommended interval of 14 days from recovery or completion of treatment are met, without restarting the vaccine dose schedule.”
Solante pointed out that for pneumonia or flu patients admitted to the hospital, they actually have them inoculated with a Pneumococcal or flu vaccine 72 hours after they have recovered.
He said it’s the same principle for those who had COVID-19. He said the 90 days is “too long.”
Solante was also asked about reports of health workers testing positive for COVID-19 after being vaccinated and the possibility that they were already incubating the virus during their inoculation.
He said it is actually safe to receive a vaccine if the patient is asymptomatic. However, it’s different for those who have symptoms.
“Pag meron kang active infection pag binakunahan ka (If you have an active infection and you are vaccinated), your vaccine will not work because your immune system is being stressed by that infection,” he said.
He said the vaccine can be given when the body is “not in particular stress,” which is why no symptoms are observed.
“The vaccine will work as long as you don’t have the symptoms,” he said.
Solante said the VEP also gave a recommendation on whether Sinovac’s vaccine can be used on senior citizens despite the lack of clinical trial data for that age group.
Such recommendations are being given as the Philippines struggles to inoculate 70 million Filipinos before the year ends.
Solante agreed that the rollout has been slow but said it is also not surprising since the Philippines does not have enough supply of vaccines. He pointed out that developed countries are able to get more doses since that’s where the vaccines are being developed and manufactured.
As of April 3, 795,320 people have received their first dose of vaccines. But with 70 million people targeted to reach herd immunity, many are criticizing the government’s slow rollout of vaccines. The country has only received 2.5 million doses with its next shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines delayed.