MANILA — The Philippines will begin administering second booster shots to vulnerable sectors next week, allowing more Filipinos get additional protection against the virus, a health official said Friday.
Unlike in the past, the rollout of additional jabs for the elderly, immunocompromised and health workers will not be pilot tested anymore in the capital region, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said.
"No more NCR phase 1. We would like to roll it out nationwide immediately on Monday after we have discussed the guidelines with our implementors," she told ANC's "Rundown".
The administration of second booster shots was supposed to start this week but health experts have yet to resolve some issues.
Among them are the age group and who will be included in the immunocompromised sector, Cabotaje said. There is also a recommended interval period of 3 to 4 months between the first and second booster, she added.
In the interview, Cabotaje also echoed the recommendation of the government's vaccine expert panel that using heterologous or different vaccine brand as an additional booster jab would be more effective against COVID-19.
"A different brand will be more effective because it tries to give additional protection outside of the regular or the homologous primary booster," she said.
"They are thinking that it will have a better effect. It’s a complementary effect to the original vaccine doses that have been given."
Cabotaje also disclosed that the global vaccine sharing program COVAX had offered to replace expiring vaccines it provided.
This, after presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion warned that some 27 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are set to expire in July.
To date, some 67 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of the figure, only 12.7 million have received their first booster dose.
Should COVID-19 behave like the flu, Cabotaje said they were looking at yearly administration of booster shots.
"Many things have still to be discovered with this COVID-19 but if it behaves like influenza, we're looking at yearly booster shots," she said.
"The contention will be whether we give it to the general population or we give it to certain priority groups like the immunocompromised."