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Gov’t postpones booster rollout for non-immunocompromised children aged 12-17

The national government has postponed the administration of the first COVID-19 booster dose for non-immunocompromised children ages 12 to 17 due to some “glitches” with the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC), a top Health official said Sunday.

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) chairperson and Health Undersecretary Dr. Myrna Cabotaje explained that HTAC made a condition that healthy adolescents aged 12 to 17 could only be given their booster shot if the booster coverage for senior citizens in their respective areas reaches 40%.

“We were confident sana na after the immunocompromised, sisimulan na ang rest of the 12 to 17 booster. Kaya nga lang po, may isang recommendation ang HTAC na nakiki-bargain kami. Ang gusto nila, at least 40% ng first booster ng area ay sa senior citizen. Alam naman natin na mababa ang first booster. Scientifically, may basis sila, pero operationally, nahihirapan kami,” she said.

(We were confident that after the immunocompromised, the booster vaccination for the rest of the 12 to 17 will begin. However, we are bargaining with the HTAC about their recommendation. They want at least 40% of an area to have its senior citizens boosted first. The first booster coverage is low. Scientifically, HTAC has a basis, but we are having difficulty operationally.)

The rollout of the first COVID-19 booster dose for immunocompromised minors for the said age group started on Wednesday, but only in hospitals due to safety reasons.

Cabotaje said they are still trying to negotiate with the HTAC regarding the said condition, hoping that they would decide within the day if the booster inoculation for the non-immunocompromised children aged 12 to 17 could proceed as long as they meet the five-month interval.

Based on the guidelines of the Department of Health (DOH), immunocompromised adolescents aged 12-17 may receive their first booster at least 28 days after the administration of the second dose of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the non-immunocompromised from the same age group would have to wait at least five months after the administration of their second COVID-19 dose before they take their first booster shot.

Booster turnout

Further, Cabotaje pointed out that the administration of the boosters for ages 12 to 17 has been slow and low, with only 45 children getting boosted in the National Capital Region (NCR) alone.

“Medyo mababa at medyo mabagal,” she said. “May operational problems kasi ‘yung paghahanap ng mga immunocompromised. Tapos ‘yung mga nanay pati ‘yung mga ospital hindi nagco-configure kasi gusto nila na isabay pati ‘yung mga anak nila na hindi immunocompromised.”

(It’s a bit low and slow. There are operational problems because of the difficulty in looking for the immunocompromised children. The mothers and hospitals do not configure as well because they want to include the children who are not immunocompromised in the booster rollout.)

So far, only the Pfizer booster shot has been granted the emergency use authorization by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration for children ages 12 to 17.

Based on DOH’s latest data, only 14.8 million Filipinos have received their first booster dose, while at least 648,000 got their second booster dose.

Meanwhile, at least 70 million individuals are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the country. —KG, GMA News