Doctors support replacing COVID vax cards with booster cards

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 07 2022 04:31 PM | Updated as of Apr 08 2022 02:58 PM

Police officers inspect vaccination cards ABS-CBN News/File
Police officers inspect vaccination cards of pedestrians and motorists passing through a busy road in Taguig City on Jan. 21, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE) - The heads of the country's vaccine expert panel (VEP) and the Philippine College of Physicians on Thursday urged government to set a period of validity for COVID-19 vaccination cards and replace them with booster cards. 

Vaccination cards should be only be valid for a year for mobility protocols, asserted Dr. Nina Gloriani, head of the VEP. 

“Kung may expiration ang bakuna, may expiration ang ating vaccine cards. Hindi pwedeng sobra na siyang luma… Wala pong forever sa bakuna,” she said in a press conference. 

(If vaccines have an expiration, vaccine cards should have an expiration, too. It shouldn't be too dated. There is no forever with vaccines.) 

“Maganda na klaro na ang mga tao ay may primary vaccination and then mayroon ding booster. Kasi ‘yung separate na vaccine card for booster emphasizes importance ng pagkuha ng booster shots,” PCP president Dr. Maricar Limpin added.

(It should be clear to people that there is primary vaccination, and then there's also booster. A separate vaccine card for booster emphasizes the need to get booster shots.) 

Antibodies from the primary COVID vaccine series wane over time and protection from it is reduced with the emergence of new COVID variants, Gloriani said. Studies showed that a booster shot increases antibodies, which protects an individual against severe COVID symptoms.

“All the vaccines we have monitored so far, showed the importance of third dose or booster dose to restore, ibalik ‘yung protection against COVID-19 at kasama doon sa data nila ‘yung protection na better (and their data include better protection) against severe form of COVID and against the variants of concern,” Gloriani said. 

"Walang forever sa mga bakuna, di lang sa COVID vaccine. Sa mga bakuna natin before may mga requirement sa booster doses kasi natural na bumababa ang immunity, bumababa ang proteksyon. Kakaiba to si COVID na ang variant ay di mo malaman kailan lalabas, dadating," she said in a press briefing Friday.

(There's no forever when it comes to vaccines, not just COVID jabs. We have booster doses requirements even in other vaccines because immunity and protection wanes. COVID is different, we don't lnow when the next variant will come.)

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Video courtesy of PTV

STEALTH OMICRON 

The omicron BA.2 sub-variant poses higher hospitalization risk among senior citizens, and children below 5, as no COVID vaccine has yet been recommended for this younger age group, according to VEP member Dr. Rontgene Solante.

He added that BA.2 can reinfect an individual earlier than the usual 3-month natural immunity from previous COVID infection.

“During first surge of cases, this is South African data, there are 2 populations that have higher odds ratio of being hospitalized. And these are those less than 5 years old, where we don’t have yet vaccine recommendation for this population, and those 60 years old and above,” Solante said in the same conference.

“Knowledge was you can only be reinfected after 3 months. But in newer data now, it says that even less than 30 days, you can be reinfected. Even if you have the BA.1, you can be reinfected with BA.2. Median base of 36 days,” he added. 

BA.2 has been called the "stealth variant" because it is slightly harder to track. A missing gene in BA.1 allowed it to be tracked by default through a common PCR test. 

Dominant globally, BA.2 has prompted surges in many countries in Europe and Asia. 

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David warned of a possible uptick in COVID cases due to new variants and low booster rollout in the country. He said data showed a pattern of the Philippines experiencing a wave of COVID-19 infections after around every 3 months. 

“May nakikita tayong uptick sa ibang region, pero mababa pa naman. Northern Mindanao natin nakikita ‘yung uptick. Pero mino-monitor pa natin,” he said.

(We can see an uptick in other regions but it's still low. We can see the uptick in Northern Mindanao but we're still monitoring.)

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5TH DOSE?

The Food and Drug Administration has yet to issue a decision on the health department’s application to amend the emergency use authorization of certain COVID vaccines for a second booster shot.

The FDA has referred the proposal back to the vaccine expert panel which will issue a recommendation "maybe in a few days," Gloriani said.

"Of course there will be another few days para sabihin ng FDA kung approved na nga po ba siya (before the FDA announces whether it's approved)," she said Friday.

Gloriani said a fifth COVID vaccine dose or a third booster shot may be possible for severely immunocompromised individuals. 

She said among the factors to be considered are the period of sufficient immunity from vaccines and the efficacy of COVID jabs against new variants or sub-variants.

“Priority pa rin natin mahanap ‘yung mga hindi pa nababakunahan kahit isa, at ‘yung mga partially vaccinated pa lang... We strongly encourage booster doses,” she said.

(While we still prioritize finding those who have not received even a single dose and individuals who are only partially vaccinated, we strongly encourage booster doses,) 

"Again, we are looking at waning immunity following the boosting. Ano ang trends ng COVID-19? At ano pa ang newer variants circulating? At ano ang epekto nitong mga variants at sub-variants na ito sa immunity na na-generate natin against the vaccines we have,” she added.

(What are the trends of COVID-19? What are the newer variants circulating. What are the effects of these variants and sub-variants in the immunity we generate through the vaccines we have?)

The Philippines has fully vaccinated some 66.3 million individuals as of April 5. At least 12.2 million people have received booster jabs. 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse

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