EXPLAINER: Why are 2nd COVID boosters given to vulnerable sectors only so far?

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2022 04:39 PM

San Juan City rolls out its second booster shots against COVID-19 for senior citizens and medical frontliners at the Vmall Greenhills vaccination site on May 20, 2022. JIre Carreon, ABS-CBN News
San Juan City rolls out its second booster shots against COVID-19 for senior citizens and medical frontliners at the Vmall Greenhills vaccination site on May 20, 2022. JIre Carreon, ABS-CBN News


MANILA - The Philippines has so far approved second COVID-19 boosters to be administered to the immunocompromised, elderly, and health workers.

Some groups have called for the administration of second boosters for economic frontline workers and other members of the A3 sector or persons with comorbidities.

The data to support an additional dose for younger people are limited, and preliminary data suggests that the benefit is minimal, according to Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, a pediatrician and a member of the Department of Health's Technical Advisory Group.

There is "some short-term benefit" of an additional mRNA booster shot for health workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised, Lim said, citing seven studies from Canada and Israel.

"Okay na okay yung binibigay na proteksyon ng ating primary series at first boosters. May specific population na hindi kagandahan ang immune response kaya madali maintindihan na kailangan ng konting tulong--ito ang immunocompromised at elderly," she said in a forum organized by the DOH on Wednesday.

(The protection we receive from primary series and first boosters are good. There are specific populations that don't have good immune response so it's understandable they need a little help--these are the immunocompromised and the elderly.)

"Wag sanang magsayang ng panahon lalong nakikita natin ang pagtaas ng kaso. Let's remember, lahat tayo nagpapabakuna not just for our own protection but for the people around us."

(Let's not waste time especially now that we're seeing cases rise. Let's remember we're not just getting vaccinated for our own protection but for the people around us.)

Health workers were also recommended to receive a second booster as it is "very essential to preserve" their workforce, Lim said.

"Kahit sabihin natin konting pakiramdam lang ng trangkaso, syempre kung may naramdaman kang ganun, 'di ka na pwede pumasok. At kung marami ang nagsi-absent sa ating healthcare frontliners, syempre 'di makakatakbo nang maayos ang ating healthcare infrastructure," she said.

(Even if we say they're just experiencing the flu, this will lead to their absence. And if many healthcare frontliners are on leave, our healthcare infrastructure cannot function properly.)

"In other population, limited ang value, kaya hindi pa natin binibigyan ng recommendation," she added.

(In other population, its value is limited so we have not yet given a recommendation.)

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BOOSTER VS ADDITIONAL DOSE

It is important to note the difference between a booster shot and an additional dose, according to Lim.

A booster shot helps boost your immune system for better, longer-lasting protection after the initial protection decreased over time, she said.

An additional dose, meantime, is administered to persons who do not have complete protection despite receiving the primary series of vaccines.

"The main difference really aside from the number of doses is the interval between receipt of doses. Sa booster, typically, you want longer intervals para mas maganda, mas swabe kumbaga ang pagtaas ng (so there's better or a higher increase of) antibody levels," she said.

"Versus sa additional doses, kailangan natin medyo mas dikit-dikit ang pagbibigay ng doses kasi nga kailangan pa natin mabuo ang protection sa katawan ng tumatanggap."

(We need to give additional doses in short intervals because we're still building on the protection that the body can receive.)

CHILDREN

Adults are urged to get vaccinated and boosted to protect children who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine, Lim said.

"Ang nakikita talaga natin dito sa pagkilos ng virus na ito, nagsasamantala siya sa mga taong walang proteksyon. Whatever the age group is, if they don't have some kind of natural immunity, sila talaga ang unang kakapitan," she said.

(The virus attacks those without protection. Whatever the age group is, if they don't have some kind of natural immunity, they will be the first to get infected.)

"Wala pa tayong produkto na lisensyado para sa below 5 years old, highlight the need for people around these kids to really optimize their protection... Siguruhin sana natin yung kasama nila sa bahay ay fully protected."

(We have no approved products yet for children below 5 years old, which only highlights the need for the people around these kids to really optimize their protection... Let's ensure those around them at home are fully protected.)

The Philippines has so far approved mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna for children ages 5 to 17 years old, and inactivated vaccine Sinovac for children ages 6 and above, Lim said.

The DOH earlier sought amendments to the emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines so teens aged 12 to 17 could get their booster shots.

Of 14 million kids ages 5 to 11, some 2.679 million have been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to the DOH.

As of Monday, around 69 million or 76.76 percent of the eligible 90 million population in the country have been fully vaccinated against the respiratory disease, according to Malacanang. Of those with primary doses, 13.89 million have received their booster shots.