COVID-19 vaccines

Philippines expands 2nd COVID-19 booster rollout to seniors, health workers

Sofia Tomacruz
Philippines expands 2nd COVID-19 booster rollout to seniors, health workers

BOOSTER. In this file photo, residents receive COVID-19 jabs at a vaccination site in Imus, Cavite, on January 11, 2022.

Dennis Abrina/Rappler

Elderly individuals and frontline health workers are eligible for a second booster at least four months after receiving their first additional shot

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Wednesday, May 18, expanded the rollout of second boosters against COVID-19 to senior citizens and frontline health workers, citing the need to increase immunity against the virus. 

The Department of Health (DOH) made the announcement on Wednesday, after the Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines and the Health Technology Assessment Council endorsed the administration of a second booster. 

“After careful study and consideration of the best available evidence, we shall now roll out effective immediately the second booster for our frontline health workers and senior citizens,” DOH Undersecretary and National Vaccination Operations Center chair Myrna Cabotaje said. 

Elderly individuals or those aged 60 and above, along with frontline health workers aged 18 or older, can avail themselves of a second booster at least four months after getting their first booster shot. The health department said only vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are to be administered.

Eligible individuals will only need to bring their vaccination card indicating the date of the first booster dose, and any valid government-issued ID.

Its implementation will also be done simultaneously across the country, though it would depend on the readiness of regional and local vaccination operation centers, vaccination sites, and other implementing units. 

“The second booster for our health workers and senior citizens will enhance protection given by the first booster and the primary series against all variants, including the recent Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

She continued: “Everyone eligible can get the second booster jab done at the LGU vaccination sites nearest you. They are safe, effective, and free of charge.”

Before its expansion, only immunocompromised adults were allowed to receive a fourth dose as early as three months after their third shot.

The rollout of second boosters to a wider population comes as health officials confirmed local transmission of the more contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1. It also comes as roughly 60% of Filipinos have been fully vaccinated with two doses, and uptake of first boosters in the country is slow. Only some 13.6 million booster shots have been administered. 

While the elderly and frontline health workers are now eligible to get a second booster, experts across the world said it was still “too early” to recommend another round of shots for the general population. Current evidence showed protection against severe disease afforded by vaccines was still holding up for healthy adults. Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.