December 19, 2022
MANILA — About half of the country’s 1.2 million healthcare workers have not availed of a second COVID-19 booster shot, seven months since the rollout of second booster shots for so-called high-risk groups last May.
As of Dec. 12, according to the Department of Health (DOH), only 603,905 healthcare workers have received two booster shots to ramp up immunity against COVID-19 due to waning protection from the primary two vaccine doses.
In May, health authorities made available second booster shots to healthcare workers (A1 priority group), persons at least 50 years old including the elderly (A2), and individuals 18 to 49 years old with existing medical conditions (A3).
“We have cumulatively provided second boosters to a total of 3,691,412 eligible Filipinos,” the DOH said over the weekend.
“Out of the 1,196,107 eligible A1 population (health workers), 592,202 are currently due for second booster [shots],” it added.
Reacting to suggestions to prevent further vaccine wastage due to expiry, the DOH maintained it does not advise giving second booster shots to the rest of the eligible population for now.
“Current evidence and recommendation by our experts only recommend second boosters for A1, A2, and A3, 18 years old and above. However, the review process is always ongoing,” the DOH said.
“When new evidence comes in, we can then assess and recommend second boosters for the general population while going through the proper regulatory process,” it added.
COVID-19 vaccination is currently provided free by the government to persons 5 years old and above.
However, health authorities have so far not approved giving booster shots to children 5 to 11 years old.
Persons 12 to 49 years old are cleared to receive only one booster dose after their primary COVID-19 vaccine series, which usually consists of two doses.
Based on DOH data, some 52 million vaccinated Filipinos have not availed of the booster shot at all.
Out of 73.7 million individuals who have received their primary doses, only 21 million have received an additional or booster shot.
“People are experiencing only mild [COVID-19] symptoms because they are vaccinated. But if they are not vaccinated, they can still experience critical complications of COVID-19,” Maria Rosario Vergeire, the officer in charge of the DOH, said during the recent nationwide vaccination campaign.
“Imagine this: 50 million Filipinos without the first booster shot can very well have critical illnesses because of COVID-19. We don’t want that to happen,” she stressed.