Revisit giving COVID-19 booster shots to healthcare workers - expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2021 10:42 AM

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MANILA - Rules on giving booster shots should be reviewed for health care workers who are often exposed to COVID-19 virus, an infectious diseases specialist said Monday.

Dr. Rontgene Solante, a physician and member of the government's vaccine expert panel, said data has shown that immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech wanes after 6 months. He said there have been breakthrough infections among those fully vaccinated with this.

In the hospitals where he works at, there have been a "moderate number" of health workers who have gotten sick despite full immunity, Solante said. Although they only got mild cases, this could bog down the healthcare services sector. 

"I think we need to revisit again if we need another dose or a third dose of the Sinovac because although most of those fully vaccinated only have mild symptoms, but if you are a health care worker, and you have mild symptoms, you will undergo 14-day isolation. That in itself can really affect the performance and the way we deliver healthcare in our hospitals," he told ANC's Headstart.

Solante said the inactivated vaccine from Sinovac, though it was able to decrease the severity of COVID-19, "may not be strong enough" to protect recipients from symptomatic infection.

He said based on his personal observation, the rules must be reviewed, especially for the health workers because they are constantly exposed to COVID-19 patients.

"We need to revisit giving boosters, especially the health workers who are really always exposed and the risk of getting the infection is always there. Even if you’re vaccinated, with constant exposure, obviously your antibody weighs down and you will also get the infection," he said.

Emergency use authorization given to the vaccines only currently allow 2 shots of most brands and a single dose for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen. 

The Department of Health also thumbed down giving supplementary vaccination for now, saying Filipinos yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be "disenfranchised" if the government starts giving booster shots while vaccine supply remains unstable.

However, the agency has included in its 2022 budget some P45 billion for the procurement of these booster shots.

According to a monitoring by ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group, some 13 million individuals in the Philippines have been fully vaccinated as of last week. This represents 18.87 percent of the government's target of immunizing 70 million adult Filipinos.

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