COVID-19 booster shots ‘critical’ to achieve immunity
HOUSE Committee on Appropriations Vice Chairman and Iloilo First District Representative Janette Garin has recommended to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and the Department of Health (DOH) to change the definition of a “fully vaccinated” person to include the first booster shot under the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccine program of the government.
Garin, a doctor by profession and an expert trained in Advanced Vaccinology, made the proposal as the booster population in the country is still pegged at a measly 21.76%, months after the booster shots for COVID-19 were made available to the public by the DOH and the local government units (LGUs).
Under the current status, a Filipino is deemed “fully vaccinated” when he/she has completed their primary series of COVID-19 jabs.
One of the reasons cited by the DOH for the non-acceptance of boosters is that nine out of ten Filipinos are overconfident in the protection given by the primary series, but Garin said that the real problem lies with the “kind of message” that the government is imparting to the public.
“Nasaan ba ang problema? I believe it is in the messaging because we keep on insisting na fully vaccinated ka na sa dalawang dose. Hindi tayo nagiging transparent. Hindi tayo nagiging buo sa desisyon na ang katotohanan, nung pumasok yung Delta at dumagdag pa yung Omicron variant at sub variant, ang isang fully vaccinated person ay iba na ang naging depinisyon. Kapag dalawa beses lang nakabakunahan, ang isang tao ay considered under vaccinated, inadequate ang kanyang proteksiyon. Kaya kailangan ng isa pang bakuna at yung ikaapat na bakuna yun ang magiging totoong booster,” Garin said.
Garin explained that if the message is “clear”, the public will surely listen, as this happened when the government administered the first two primary doses. Almost 92% or 72 million Filipinos have complied with the primary series vaccination.
“Dapat ang gawin ng ating gobyerno ay palitan at gawin na considered fully vaccinated ka lang sa Covid kung mayroon kang 3 bakuna. Huwag tayong matakot sabihin na nawala ang ating herd immunity nang pumasok ang Omicron variant kaya hindi sapat ang proteksiyon kung walang ikatlong bakuna,” Garin added.
The lady solon also called “premature” the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to relax the face mask protocol as this could spike cases anew.
She said that Singapore and Vietnam have implemented the face mask-off policy as their booster population have reached 78%. In the United States, although registering a lower booster rate as of the moment, their healthcare system is well-organized. They have ample hospital beds and free medicines for their Covid positive patients, unlike the Philippines.
“If we make wearing of face mask optional, this will send a mixed signal, the public would feel that there’s no pandemic anymore and will be more confident not to get booster shots,” Garin said as she sees no added benefits for optional mask policy as the movement of people is slowly returning back to normal, face to face classes have resumed, and the economy is back on track.
“What are the added benefits of taking off the masks? Hindi ko pa masyado naiintindihan pero yung risks na inilalagay natin kapag inalis ito ay medyo malaki, ang tanong dyan – have we preposition medicines for COVID? Kapag magkasakit ka libre ba ang mga gamot? These are questions that should be answered before po magkaroon ng pinal na desisyon tungkol sa mask policy,” Garin said.
To encourage the public to have their third vaccine, Garin also proposed to incorporate the financial assistance program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with the DOH booster program.
These two programs will make it easier to encourage the public to get their booster shot by providing for their logistical expenses.