A TOP official of the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday disclosed that 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.
Dr. Myrna Cabotaje, National Vaccination Operations Center chairperson and Health Undersecretary, 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.
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. At least 100 immunocompromised children have so far availed of the booster shot.
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 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.
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 alone.
“Medyo mababa at medyo mabagal. 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,” she said.
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.
Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said the DOH is studying the possibility of allowing adults between the ages of 50 and 59 to get a second COVID-19 booster shot.
“Actually, we started our discussions with our experts last week, and we are studying which sectors can be added. We are looking at the evidence,” she said.
Should the experts recommend expanding the coverage to this age group, Vergeire said the emergency use authorization issued by the Food and Drug Administration must be amended.
“Discussions are ongoing. We will be presenting to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) on Monday and in case there will be an approval from our officials, we will be processing and facilitating this with the FDA and our HTAC,” she said.
At present, only frontline healthcare workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals are qualified for the second booster shot.