This website requires JavaScript.

WHO Panel Wants 3rd Jab For Sinovac, Sinopharm Recipients Over 60

WHO Panel Wants 3rd Jab For Sinovac, Sinopharm Recipients Over 60
Philippine General Hospital director Gerardo ‘Gap’ Legaspi is the first to receive the jab developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd. at the medical facility in Manila as the country began its vaccination against COVID-19 on March 1, 2021.

GENEVA – A panel of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended on Monday, Oct. 11, that people over 60 receive a third dose of the shots made by Chinese vaccine makers Sinovac and Sinopharm, some one to three months after completing their doses, citing evidence in studies in Latin America that the jabs perform less well over time.

Observational data on Sinopharm and Sinovac shots “clearly showed that in older age groups... the vaccine performs less well after two doses,” said Joachim Hombach, secretary of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE),  which held a five-day closed-door meeting last week.

“We also know that the addition of a third dose or moving into a two-plus-one schedule provides a strong (immune) response. So we expect from there a much better protection,” he said.

But health authorities using the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines should aim first to maximize two-dose coverage in the older populations and then administer the third dose, the SAGE panel said.

The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director general Eric Domingo also said on Monday  there is “no immediate need” to administer COVID-19 booster shots because there are no indications yet that the efficacy of vaccines has waned.

“With regard to Sinovac, five months have passed and we are approaching six months. But so far, we can see that it still offers protection and we are not seeing a huge increase in COVID-19 infections among our 20 million vaccinated persons. So I fully agree that at this time, there’s no reason to believe that we need it (booster shot) immediately,” Domingo added.

The SAGE group, composed of independent experts who make policy but not regulatory recommendations, will review all global data on booster shots in a Nov. 11 meeting, amid questions over variants and potential waning of immunity, WHO vaccine director Kate O’Brien said.

The WHO also recommended that immunocompromised people be given an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine, due to their higher risk of breakthrough infections after standard immunization.

SAGE said the additional dose should be offered “as part of an extended primary series since these individuals are less likely to respond adequately to vaccination following a standard primary vaccine series and are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease.”

O’Brien, referring to people with lower immunity due to other conditions, told a news briefing: “The recommendation is for a third vaccination, an additional vaccination in the primary series and again that is based on the evidence showing that the immunogenicity and evidence on breakthrough infections is highly disproportionately represented by those people.”

Several COVID-19 vaccines have been given WHO approval for emergency use during the pandemic: Pfizer-BioNTech, Janssen, Moderna, Sinopharm, Sinovac and AstraZeneca.

They are all two-dose vaccines, except the Janssen jab.

The WHO is also on the verge of deciding whether to give emergency use listing (EUL) to India’s Bharat Biotech jab.

Currently some 3.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, O’Brien said.

An estimated 1.5 billion doses are available globally each month, enough to meet the target of vaccinating 40 percent of each country’s population by year-end, but distribution is unequal, she added.

 “Giving those booster doses to individuals who have already had the benefit of a primary response is like putting two life jackets on somebody and leaving others without any lifejacket,” O’Brien said. “In this sense we are talking about getting the first lifejacket onto people who have immuno-compromising conditions.”

Some Asian countries are planning to provide booster shots for their health care workers who were given Sinovac jabs amid reports that they still got infected with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Duterte administration allocated P45 billion in next year’s national budget to buy booster shots. – With Jose Rodel Clapano