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WHO Bucks Boosters Even For Healthcare Workers

WHO Bucks Boosters Even For Healthcare Workers
A non-San Juan resident gets a COVID-19 shot during the first day of vaccination for those who do not live in the city at Theater Mall in Greenhills Shopping Center on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine STAR

The World Health Organization (WHO) reiterated on Tuesday, Sept. 15,  its position against giving COVID-19 booster shots even for healthcare workers (HCWs), unless the recipients are immunocompromised.

At a public health briefing, WHO Philippines representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the agency does not see the “need for population-level booster doses at this point of time.”

“There is still vaccine inequity globally and some of the most vulnerable people have not been able to access even a single dose of the vaccine,” Abeyasinghe said.

He pointed out that there is still “no safety information” on administering booster doses for vaccinated individuals.

There is “no justification at this point of time” for booster shots even for people from the vulnerable sectors, according to Abeyasinghe.

The WHO official said they do not see a need for universal booster shots for HCWs, unless they are compromised individuals.

“There may be a need for those with comorbidities to receive a booster shot, but universal administration of booster doses even for healthcare workers at this point of time, WHO does not have a recommendation to support that,” Abeyasinghe noted.

Abeyasinghe, however, said the WHO is open to booster shots if there are evidence that immunity is waning for those who were given COVID-19 jabs months ago.

“This is an evolving situation… but in the interim, our current position stays since the vaccines are effective in preventing severe infection and deaths. It is more important to address the global inequity in access to vaccines,” he maintained.

The bloc of former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano filed a resolution in the House of Representatives on Tuesday urging the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infec-tious Diseases to provide booster shots to HCWs.

Cayetano was joined by his congresswoman-wife Lani Cayetano and Reps. Raneo Abu of Batangas, Dan Fernandez of Laguna and Jose Antonio Alvarado of Bulacan in filing House Resolution No. 40.

“It is important to protect health workers so that they may, in turn, take care of COVID-19 and non-COVID patients. Nearly two years into the pandemic, the Philippines has struggled to vaccinate more than a small fraction of its population due to vaccine shortage,” the lawmakers said.

“Providing extra protection to those who are most vulnerable because of their line of work is a moral imperative and a necessity to prevent the collapse of our health care system,” they added.

According to the WHO, at least 23,611 Filipino health workers have contracted the virus as of last August.

On Aug. 19, Malacañang announced that P45 billion in the 2022 national budget has been earmarked for COVID-19 booster shots for medical workers and immunocompromised individuals. – With Delon Porcalla