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Garin to DOH: Prepare guidelines for bivalent vaccination now

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Garin to DOH: Prepare guidelines for bivalent vaccination now
A health worker prepares a dose of the BioNtech Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination for seafarers at a stadium in Manila on July 15, 2021.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health still has no guidelines on a vaccination program using the bivalent vaccine, including informing the public that a second booster is required before getting jabbed a fifth time, Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said.

As second-generation COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in the country next month, Garin has asked the DOH to come up with guidelines on how the jabs are to be implemented.

She claimed the agency has to highlight that bivalent vaccines, unlike the original COVID-19 jabs, contain specific protection against Omicron variant from which mutations of the COVID-19 virus had started.

“Why do we need this (bivalent) vaccine? It is because most of the mutation is based on Omicron variant and this bivalent vaccine contains Omicron specific,” she said.

The DOH announced earlier that bivalent vaccine would be available in the Philippines before the end of the year.

Unlike the SAR-CoV-2 vaccine manufactured earlier, the bivalent jab provides protection against the Omicron variant from which various mutations of the virus have started. The Omicron variant is not as deadly as the Delta variant, but is more transmissible.

Garin pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) should also prepare for the entry of bivalent vaccine. Otherwise, she cautioned, the uptake of bivalent jabs may be low and will only result in vaccine wastage.

She noted that as a practice, the DOH comes up with guidelines that need HTAC approval, thus necessitating the need for the two agencies to start working together to save time.

It is the role of the FDA to grant permits or licenses before a product can be made available in the country.

“In my opinion, the uptake of booster shots was low because when the people wanted to get them, they were turned away. If there are stocks of vaccines and they are safe, you should give them already. Otherwise, they will lose interest to be vaccinated,” Garin said.

She also said that, by this time, there should already be guidelines on who are eligible to receive which vaccine and who should administer the shots.

“The basic question is are we prepared for the bivalent vaccine? If the vaccine arrives in December, are we ready to implement it?” she added.

Garin maintained that the public should be informed that a second booster shot is a prerequisite to getting the bivalent jab. This requirement should “trigger” those interested to get a second booster.

DOH data showed 73,707,875 individuals were fully vaccinated as of Nov. 21. Of that number, only 20.86 million have received their first and second boosters.

1,326 new COVID cases

Meanwhile, the DOH yesterday reported an additional 1,326 COVID cases, bringing to 4,033, 682 the total number of the highly infectious disease in the country.

The department noted that of the total number of confirmed COVID cases nationwide, 18,482 are active while 3,950,606 have recovered from the disease.

The number of those who succumbed to the infection rose to 64,594.

The National Capital Region posted the most number of new cases in the last 14 days with 3,874 followed by Calabarzon with 1,961 and Western Visayas with 1,293.

The hospital bed occupancy rate is now at 23.4 percent while the cumulative positivity rate is at 13.8 percent. – Mayen Jaymalin

COVID-19 VACCINE

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