It is now the middle of the year 2021. Four months have passed since the Philippines began its nationwide vaccination program against the COVID-19 pandemic that laid the world low the year before. A variety of COVID vaccines have been given emergency use authorization to be distributed to LGUs for their populations. One commonality between all these vaccines is that they must be injected twice to a recipient with a gap of a few weeks in between. Unfortunately, supply issues mean that while many Filipinos have their first vaccine shot, fewer got the complete two. And the first-shot recipients find themselves waiting for some time.
There has been discussion on just how long an interval between two injections of a COVID-19 vaccine is viable before their effects are diminished. The established gap early on in the national vaccination drive was around 21 days. But as CNN Philippines reports, the permissible gap is apparently longer than expected. In a statement this past Monday, July 5, the Department of Health (DOH) proposed that COVID vaccine recipients who only got their first injection can wait for as long as six months for their follow-up booster shot, according to DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergere.
Vergere noted in a virtual press briefing yesterday that the new six-month acceptable gap between two shots of a COVID vaccine was worked out following discussion with vaccination experts, in response to an Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) report from early June that over a million first-shot vaccine recipients have missed the original 21-day window for their follow-up. Initially attributed to lack of vaccine supplies to local vaccination venues, Undersecretary Vergere refuted the reported figures by naming other factors, such as once-vaccinated recipients catching COVID-19, or being quarantined due to exposure to a COVID patient, which would delay their next shot.
For more detailed estimates, vaccine experts have cited studies on different COVID vaccine brands to determine the longest interval between shots while retaining optimum efficacy. It was determined that vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer can wait 42 days between shots, while the Russian-made Sputnik V can wait 90 days. Only the vaccine from China’s Sinovac has its second dose recommended to be administered “ASAP” according to Vergere, likely the source of the 21-day original interval since Sinovac was the first COVID vaccine to arrive here.
Based on national COVID vaccination stats dated July 4, 11,708,029 vaccine doses have been administered, with around 8.839 million first-dose recipients and some 2.868 million who are completely vaccinated. All available vaccines in the country require two doses. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has yet to be given emergency use authorization by the DOH.
Image from Inquirer.net