Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has already approved the Health Technology Assessment Council's (HTAC) recommendation on the administration of the first Pfizer booster shots for children ages 12 to 17.
“Yes it has been approved but wait please for the issuance of implementing guidelines hopefully within the day,” Duque said in a message to GMA News Online on Tuesday.
In a radio interview also Tuesday, Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) chief Dr. Nina Gloriani said Duque only approved the booster dose from Pfizer because the pharmaceutical firm gave data and applied first for an emergency use authorization with the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
She explained that DOH gave the green light for such development due to the waning immunity of the primary vaccine series against COVID-19, and the threats posed by the viral disease’s variants and subvariants.
“Napirmahan na ni Secretary Duque ‘yung approval dito. Hinihintay na lang ‘yung guidelines which will come in very soon. Meron na lang konting technicalities na inaayos tapos ilalabas na rin ‘yun. Pagkatapos noon ay puwede nang magbigay [ng boosters],” Gloriani said.
(Secretary Duque has already signed the approval. We are just waiting for the guidelines which will come very soon. There are just a few technicalities that are being fixed. After that, the boosters can already be administered.)
She was referring to the set of guidelines for the rollout of booster jabs against COVID-19 for minors aged 12 to 17, which National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) chairperson Myrna Cabotaje said may be released sometime this week.
Further, Gloriani said that the booster shots for 12 to 17 years old might have a lower dose as compared to the regular boosters given to the adult population.
“‘Yung 12 to 17 parang considered na adults, so hindi siya talagang maiiba. Although, medyo may nakita akong part ng hindi pa lumalabas na guidelines na 0.3 mL ang ibibigay. That’s Pfizer. Usually, I think that’s 0.5 [mL], so baka kalahati. Hindi pa ako masyadong sure pa do’n,” she said.
(The aged 12 to 17 are quite considered adults, so the boosters might not be different. Although, I have seen a part of the unreleased guidelines that 0.3 mL will be given to them for Pfizer. Usually, I think that’s 0.5 mL, so maybe half a dose will be administered. I’m not too sure about that.)
Gloriani said the booster vaccinations for adolescents may start with the immunocompromised, then the rest of the age group could start “eventually.”
Meanwhile, Gloriani said that the VEP is hopeful that the HTAC will also recommend the administration of the second booster dose to the general public, despite a member of the DOH's Technical Advisory Group saying that doing so “does not show significant benefits as opposed to the elderly and immunocompromised.”
“We are hoping that eventually, the HTAC will release ‘yung kanilang rekomendasyon [their recommendation] because at the end, HTAC ‘yung magdedesisyon diyan [will have the final say on that],” she said.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante on Sunday said a variant-specific vaccine should be given as a booster dose for the general population as it may be more effective against the more transmissible Omicron variant.
Currently, the second booster shot could only be given only to frontline healthcare workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals. —KBK, GMA News