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Philippines

Philippines gives medical workers Covid booster jabs

Catholic youth group warns against corruption tainting the latest vaccine rollout

Philippines gives medical workers Covid booster jabs

A medical worker shows vials of BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Health officials announced the start of a booster shot campaign on Nov. 16. (Photo: AFP)

The Philippine Health Department began administering Covid-19 booster shots to medical workers on Nov. 16 after more than 100 vaccinated workers contracted the virus in October.

Almost 80 percent of fully vaccinated healthcare workers have received the Chinese-made Sinovac jabs since it was the first vaccine to arrive in the Philippines back in March.

The boosters were necessary because data showed that the efficacy of Sinovac decreased after six to seven months, the department said.

After health workers, the elderly and those with comorbidities will next receive booster shots, the Health Department said.

“Those vulnerable at this point in time are those who were vaccinated beginning March and April. These are actually healthcare workers,” infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante told reporters on Nov. 16.

He said more than 100 health workers contracted the virus in October, proving the lesser efficacy of Sinovac.

This should not be another opportunity for government leaders to engage in opportunistic acts

“These frontliners taking care of Covid patients should be prioritized because we expect a small surge in cases in November and December,” he added,

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the Health Department would release guidelines for the whole booster campaign including the period when to administer the shot depending on the brand of vaccine.

“Based on studies, we will recommend Moderna, Pfizer or Sinovac booster doses regardless of the brand used for the primary series. Sinovac will still be ordered as a booster for those who had Sinovac as a primary jab,” Duque said on Nov. 16.

He said they had administered almost 60 million vaccines nationwide. Many others still need jabs, yet some people remain “stubborn” and refuse to be vaccinated.

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Infections “are going down and those who die will be those who have not been vaccinated yet or those with comorbidities. So, I urge our countrymen, please have yourselves vaccinated,” Duque said.

On Nov. 16, the Philippines recorded 849 new cases, the lowest single-day tally for months, according to recent government figures.

A Manila-based Catholic youth group, however, called for this latest vaccine rollout to be closely monitored. The Saint Lorenzo Youth group in Paranaque Diocese said it should not be another source of corruption.

It said the country has not recovered from recent Covid corruption anomalies that have plagued President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration such as overpriced face masks and medical equipment procured from an ally of the president.

“This should not be another opportunity for government leaders to engage in opportunistic acts,” youth member Harold Frias told UCA News.

He also pointed to alleged corruption in acquiring the China-made vaccines that allegedly cost three times more than vaccines with a higher efficacy rate.

“Sinovac is more expensive than Pfizer and Moderna vaccines but with a lower efficacy rate. Yet more than 80 percent of the nation’s population were jabbed with Sinovac. There is something anomalous in this transaction,” Frias said.

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