Booster jabs for seniors are now a primary concern in many countries as the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a third dose of Sinovac and Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines for persons aged 60 and above, as well as those whose immune systems are possibly diminished.
Reports — purely anecdotal, not yet scientific — of waning immunity six to eight months later among those inoculated with the China-made vaccines had driven concern for booster shots, with our government stating it is ready to administer the same to health workers, who were the first to get the vaccine, by November this year.
Availability could be a problem, however, as no evidence has been found that using a different brand for the refresher shot would work just as well.
Also, there is the matter of need: Do people really need booster shots?
While there is good news that a million doses of the vaccine from Sinovac Biotech will arrive in the Philippines next week, as announced by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian on a Facebook post, the question is: Will government decide to prioritize the third dose or the unvaccinated?
The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, in a report, “said all evidence reviewed showed a need for a third dose of the same vaccine for those who have completed the two doses of Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.”
Our frontliners and seniors were the first to be given the Sinovac jabs when vaccine rollout began in the Philippines last March.
Six to seven months later, they should be getting the recommended third dose as their vulnerability to infection once more requires protection.
Yet scientists and health experts worldwide are in a quandary on several points, including who needs booster shots, when these should be administered, and how often will people need such shots from now on.
The Philippines has a long way to go yet.
How far are we in the goal toward herd immunity? As of 10 October, some 23.1 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, according to data.
Last August, when talk of booster shots came up, health experts recommended that priority should go to the unvaccinated. Many provinces have yet to have the same rate of vaccination as the National Capital Region, and yet tourism is already being given a push with easier requirements for travelers.
The government has started inoculating the rest of the general population this week. Department of Health (DoH) Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said the cluster group headed by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. had assured there are enough vaccines in supply.
The DoH also said vaccines from the COVAX facility will go to “priority groups” to “ensure equitable access to vaccines especially among the most vulnerable and poorest populations.”
Another major development is the decision to begin the vaccination of minors aged 12 to 17 with comorbidities in a pilot run that should begin today, 15 October.
People have been eager and impatient for more freedom from health restrictions, which right now only full vaccination offers.
The old are getting depressed and the young are getting more restless. Everyone wants the same thing, but this business of vaccination is obviously way too slow for comfort.