3.6M expired shots will be replaced under CoVAX, says DoH

Philippine Star / Michael Varkas

About 3.6 million coronavirus vaccines donated to the Philippines have expired and will be replaced by a worldwide program for equal access to COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

Expired vaccines account for 1.5% of the country’s coronavirus vaccine stock, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duke III said in a televised meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte, broadcast on Wednesday. The Covid-19 vaccine will be replaced at no cost under Global Access or COVAX, he added.

He said the government had applied to vaccine manufacturers to replace the government-purchased expired coronavirus vaccine.

Vaccine Tsar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. told the meeting that there are still 98 million coronavirus vaccine shots in the country.

In the Filipino language, he said, “COVAX can replace expired vaccines with newly developed vaccines that have a shelf life of more than six months to a year.”

More than 67 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, of which about 13 million have been injected with booster shots, according to DoH.

OCTA Research Group Fellow Friedegusto P. David told a Virtual Town meeting on Monday that the Philippines could experience a further increase in coronavirus infections between May or June, which other countries are now experiencing.

The Philippines on Monday began giving critically ill people a second booster shot against the coronavirus.

Among those eligible for the shots were people with weakened immune systems, living with HIV, cancer, transplant and bedridden patients and critically ill, the Department of Health (DOH) said in a statement.

An outbreak of a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) could occur among unvaccinated Filipinos, said Teodoro J. Harbosa, an adviser to the National Task Force on COVID-19.

OCTA President Ranjit S. Rai, quoting a survey they conducted from March 5 to 10, said 77% of Filipinos are willing to get their booster shot, while 23% are unsure.

He added that 53% of those who were unsure felt that booster shots were safe, while 35% thought it was not necessary.

Only a handful of areas in the Capital Region were ready to roll out a second booster shot, the health department said Monday.

According to Nina Gloriani, head of the government’s vaccine expert panel, members of the vulnerable sector should find a vaccine brand that is different from their previous shots for further protection.

The second booster vaccine should be injected three months after the first, the health department said earlier.

Ms Gloriani, head of the government’s vaccine expert panel, said the government would soon provide a second booster to increase the safety of seniors and health workers.

An independent DoH advisory agency is expected to release its recommendation this week on the use of a second booster shot for the department.

Mrs Gloriani said they did not expect any security issues.

Some medical frontliners and senior citizens mistakenly received a second booster shot at a hospital in Metro Manila this week, although the initial rollout was supposed to be limited to people with weakened immune systems.

Rontzin M., a member of the government’s vaccine expert panel. Solant told a town hall meeting Monday that economic frontliners should take their first booster shot to ensure the economic recovery does not derail.

Based on the DoH guidelines, economic frontliners include private sector workers who need to report physically for work, government employees and employees in the informal sector, and self-employed persons working outside. They also include people who work in private households.

At the same meeting, President’s entrepreneurial adviser Jose Ma. A. Concepcion III says Filipinos should take their booster shots to prevent a lockdown, which will slow down the pace of business recovery.

“We don’t want to go back to warning level 3,” he said. “It will really ruin the entrepreneurship renewal drive because they will see their lives and business come back. You don’t want to break that momentum.”

The private sector is working on how more Filipinos can be tempted to get their COVID-19 booster shots, he said in a separate mobile phone message.

“It simply came to our notice then. But we are working on it, “he added.

He added that private companies are conducting information drives to inform people that COVID-19 vaccines are safe. – Norman P. Aquino

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