A blunt reply from the Department of Health (DOH) cemented the resolve of former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies in Congress to file a House Resolution urging the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to provide booster/additional shots to health care workers and the immunocompromised.
The group had first made the plea in a letter to the IATF on August 20, 2021 in view of the “high risk of exposure and distinct vulnerability” of health care workers and the immunocompromised to the novel coronavirus.
In its reply dated August 27, 2021, the DOH said while it is treating the matter with “utmost urgency,” it does “not yet recommend the use of booster doses because available evidence has not yet provided definitive clinical value.”
Signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the letter said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) are keeping abreast of the most recent evidence on booster and additional shots.
The letter also said the DOH is continuously working with the Department of Finance (DOF) to earmark funds for booster doses as well as with DOH experts for the development of projections based on currently available evidence.”
In a follow-up letter dated September 11, 2021, Cayetano and his allies told Duque that there is “enough evidence showing definitive clinical value of booster shots.”
“Various studies abroad confirm that the protection the vaccines provide wanes overtime, and that booster shots considerably increase that level of protection,” they said.
“In fact, a number of countries have started or planned to start giving booster shots not only to the healthcare workers and the immunocompromised but to the general population as well,” they added.
As of this writing, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the United States are providing or will provide booster shots for their frontline health care workers.
The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Singapore, meanwhile, are either providing or will provide additional doses for immunocompromised persons.
The group also reminded Duque that DOH Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire herself, during a Laging Handa public briefing on September 4, 2021, “verbalized that booster shots can be administered to medical workers and immunocompromised individuals.”
Two days after sending their second letter to Duque, Cayetano and his allies filed House Joint Resolution No. 40 “strongly urging the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to provide booster/additional shots to health care workers and the immunocompromised.”
Other signatories were Taguig 2nd District Rep. Maria Laarni Cayetano, ANAKALUSUGAN Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor, Laguna 1st District Rep. Dan Fernandez, Batangas 2nd District Rep. Raneo Abu, and Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio “Kuya” Sy-Alvarado.
“It is vital to protect our healthcare workers, so that they may, in turn, take care of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients,” the resolution reads.
“With hundreds of hospitals in the country nearing full capacity and our healthcare workers having to attend to more patients and extending working hours as a result of recent rise in positive cases, we cannot afford a further shortage of our health manpower as a result of our healthcare workers being infected with the virus,” it adds.