MANILA— The Department of Health said Friday it has procured 44 million 0.3ml syringes from UNICEF for the country's COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
The delivery, however, has been delayed due to a global shortage in the particular type of syringe, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing, Friday.
The 0.3ml syringe is specifically used to administer mRNA-type vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 shots.
UNICEF announced in October last year that it would stockpile more than half a billion syringes by the end of 2020 as part of its groundwork for the rapid, safe, and efficient delivery of vaccines against COVID-19.
UNICEF began delivering supplies of syringes "to low- and lower-middle income countries in behalf of the COVAX facility" as early as February 2021.
The DOH said it had anticipated this kind of shortage as early as May this year, and in June already coordinated with regional units to use tuberculin syringes instead of the recommended 0.3 ml syringes in the administration of vaccines to ease the depletion of the supply of the latter.
Tuberculin syringes are small 1ml-syringes normally used to administer tuberculosis tests.
The DOH pharmaceutical division, the Food And Drug Administration (FDA), and the Disease prevention and Control Bureau have also been mobilized to map out and explore resources to secure stocks of 0.3ml syringes.
Vergeire said other types of vaccines are unaffected by the said shortage as the department's supply in storage facilities for their respective requirements remains sufficient.
The DOH reminded the public that while the overall vaccination rate is improving and more Filipinos are willing to get inoculated, booster shots are not yet officially allowed by the government and should not be received.
"You are violating national protocols, boosters are not yet included in protocols." Vergeire said.
Should recipients of third doses and boosters experience untoward effects and reactions, the government cannot be held liable, Vergeire said.
The clinic and those who sourced, procured, and administered the boosters will be held accountable for any incidents caused by the inoculation of boosters.
This, Vergeire said, is not to restrict and control Filipinos from protecting themselves further from the virus, but is done to protect them from adverse effects and ensure the effectivity of boosters as studies remain underway for the full recommendation of expert groups.
Vergeire also called out groups that have been spreading information that holding off on booster shots will cause a resurgence in cases.
"Base sa ebidensya, pag-aaral, at experiences in other countries where there are increases in their cases, the unvaccinated ang nakakapagtaas ng kaso sa isang bansa, hindi ang kakulangan ng booster," Vergeire said.
(Based on evidence, studies, having a large number of unvaccinated individuals cause resurges in cases, not the lack of booster administration.)
Vaccine brands Pfizer, Astrazeneca, Sinovac, and Sputnik V have already submitted their applications for emergency use authorization as booster shots.
The FDA and the vaccine expert panel are now completing evidence for evaluation. Vergeire advised them to wait for final recommendations, the issuance of the EUA, and guidelines on the administration of boosters and third doses.