New round of Covid-19 vaccination urged for elderly, health personnel

MANILA—A lawmaker is urging the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to roll out a new round of vaccination drive to protect more Filipinos against Covid-19 and its highly transmissible Omicron variant.

In a statement on Monday night, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said the government’s pandemic response task force should consider giving additional two doses, considering that some countries are already administering the fourth dose on their population to increase their level of protection.

Barzaga particularly noted the case of Israel wherein officials are elated by their initial findings on the administration of a fourth shot, which their health experts have found to have significantly boosted the immunity of a vaccinated person.

“If the pandemic response task force decides to undertake a new round of vaccination, it should start with those belonging to the A1, A2 and A3 priority groups composed of health workers, senior citizens and those with comorbidity,” Barzaga said.

He said these groups received either China’s Sinovac or the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca, the first two Covid-19 vaccines available in the country during the early stage of the pandemic.

“That was in April and May last year, or eight months to nine months ago. By this time, the immunity of the priority sectors might have already waned, if not dissipated,” he said.

He argued that if health personnel, the elderly, and those with comorbidity are given a third dose or a booster, it may not be sufficient to restore the protection they had when they received their full two-dose course and to shield them even from the “mild” Omicron.

“There may be nothing to boost in a vaccinated person’s system,” Barzaga said.

He cited studies in Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic showing that two doses of a vaccine with lower efficacy followed by a booster did not generate enough immunity against Covid-19.

Barzaga said those who received a full two-dose primary course may need two additional booster shots to attain protective levels against the virus.

“The pandemic response task force can start a new round of vaccination by offering these people two additional doses of Sinovac, of which the government reportedly has ample supply,” he said.

He said Sinovac is the vaccine of choice of many, who claim it does not give rise to side effects similar to those caused by western-made jabs like headache and fever.

The Philippines has so far administered 113,364,030 doses of coronavirus vaccines nationwide, including second doses for 52,393,229 and 3,327,416 booster shots. PNA