Gov’t kicks off booster vaccination of senior citizens, immunocompromised

Published November 22, 2021, 2:16 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The national government officially rolled out the administration of booster shots of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines to senior citizens (A2 priority) and select individuals with co-morbidities (A3) on Monday, Nov. 22.

Dr. Nina Gloriani (in white shirt), of the Vaccine Expert Panel, receives the first dose of booster shot for senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals from Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a ceremonial vaccination program at East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City on Nov. 22, 2021. Behind her are members of task force on COVID-19 response led by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. (standing, third from left). (Photo NTF Against COVID-19)

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III, chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, led the ceremonial vaccination of the A2 and A3 priorities at the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City.

Similar vaccinations were also held in various hospitals and immunization sites nationwide.

Accordingly, around 8.2 million senior citizens and 8.4 million individuals with co-morbidities will be targeted to be vaccinated with booster shots within this year.

“We have enough doses of various brands. Sa amin pong taalaan, umabot ng six to eight million ang in-allocate natin sa senior citizens at [individuals] with co-morbidities (In our tally, we allocated six to eight million [doses] to our senior citizens and [individuals] with co-morbidities),” Galvez said.

The first dose of booster shot for the elderlies and immunocompromised was given to Dr. Nina Gloriani, of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP), under a homologous vaccination. She was given a Sinovac-CoronaVac shot which is the same brand of vaccine that she took during her primary series of vaccination.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of DOST’s Philippine Council for Health and Research Development (PCHRD), received a Pfizer booster shot under a heterologous vaccination. He previously had two doses of Sinovac during his primary series of vaccination.

The booster vaccination of the elderly population and those with underlying medical condition was launched less than a week since the administration of additional shots to the healthcare workers (A1) last Nov. 17. Around 1.6 million doses were set aside for the booster shots of medical frontliners.

Galvez noted that the healthcare workers, senior citizens and the co-morbids are deemed as the most vulnerable sectors since they are prone to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19, hence, the need to boost their immune response.

However, as for the A3 category, only select immunocompromised individuals were included in the first phase of the booster vaccination.

It includes immunodeficient individuals, people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), people with active cancer or malignancy, transplant patients, and patients under immunosuppressive treatments.

Other individuals with co-morbidities will be included in the second phase of the booster vaccination next week.

“We will continue to protect what we call ‘chain of protection’ for senior citizens, and also healthcare workers, and those with co-morbidities. Gagawin po naming ito ngayon (We will do it now),” Galvez said.

Meanwhile, the booster shot for economic and government frontliners (A4), indigent population (A5), and the general population may begin in early 2022.

The vaccine czar stated that the booster vaccination for the priority categories will create a link of protection that will help save more lives, revive the economy, and secure the future of the younger generation.