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Rudderless?

Second-generation COVID-19 vaccines are already expected to arrive in the country next month, but the Department of Health that still has no Health Secretary also has no guidelines on a vaccination program using the bivalent vaccine.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, a former health secretary, has asked the DOH to come up with guidelines on how the jabs are to be implemented, revealing that the agency has not even highlighted in its information drive the most basic information that a second booster is a prerequisite to getting the bivalent shot.

Unlike the SAR-CoV-2 vaccine manufactured earlier, the bivalent jab provides protection from the Omicron variant from which various mutations of the virus have started. Omicron is not as deadly as the Delta variant, but it is more transmissible. The DOH announced earlier that the bivalent vaccine would be available in the Philippines before the end of the year.

Garin also pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration and the Health Technology Assessment Council should be ready for the entry of the new vaccine. Otherwise, uptake may be low and it will only result in vaccine wastage.

“The basic question is are we prepared for the bivalent vaccine? If the vaccine arrives in December, are we ready to implement it?,” Garin asked.

DOH data showed 73.7 million individuals have been fully vaccinated as of November 21. Of that number, only 20.86 million have received their first and second boosters, while the country has recently wasted over 31 million doses, with an estimated cost of P15.6 billion.

Despite the deplorable vaccine wastage and a public that has not yet been informed that a second booster shot is a prerequisite to getting the bivalent jab, the country remains without a Health Secretary.

How much longer will the DOH be allowed to go on a rudderless autopilot while a pandemic still rages and the vaccination effort that is supposed to be the only way out of it as quickly and efficiently as possible, continues to flounder?*

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January 2023
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