MANILA (UPDATED) — The Philippines will offer the second COVID-19 booster to the general public, the Department of Health announced Wednesday, allowing more Filipinos to get additional protection against the virus.
According to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, the agency is still ironing out the operational guidelines, which it hopes to release within the week.
"Batay sa updated emergency use authorization ng Food and Drug Administration at positibong rekomendasyon ng Health Technology Assessment Council, maaari na po nating magamit ang ating mga bakuna na meron tayo ngayon upang makapag-second boosters na ang general population o ang ating healthy adults," she said in a press briefing.
(Based on the updated emergency use authorization of the Food and Drug Administration and the positive recommendation of the Health Technology Assessment Council, we can now use the vaccines that we have as second booster for the general population or our healthy adults.)
The country only allowed health-care workers, senior citizens and immunocompromised people to receive the fourth jab.
This time, all adults aged 18 years and above are eligible for the second booster, Vergeire said.
Only 3 vaccine brands have been approved for use as additional jab, she added. These are Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
"Hopefully within the week we can issue and we can start our implementation the soonest time possible," the acting health chief said.
Vergeire noted the agency's decision to start administering the second booster was not related to the recent uptick in coronavirus infections.
"The decision for us to implement the second booster for the general population is still based on science and evidence," she said.
During the Holy Week, the country recorded 1,944 COVID-19 cases, which was 13 percent higher compared to its previous week.
Minors aged 12 to 17 are not covered by the updated EUA for second booster dose.
MORTALITY AMONG UNVACCINATED
In the briefing, Vergeire stressed that vaccines and booster remained effective against COVID-19.
From July 2022 to March 2023, about 11 percent of unvaccinated admissions led to deaths, she said.
Mortality rate among vaccinated persons was at 4 percent.
Vergeire also disclosed that the total number of unvaccinated cases rose to 13 percent in March compared to February.
Meanwhile, the proportion of severe and critical cases among unvaccinated admissions have been increasing, she added.
As of March 16, more than 78.4 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Of the figure, over 23.8 million have received their first booster dose while almost 4.4 million have gotten the second booster shots.