MANILA, Philippines – The government’s vaccine expert panel (VEP) is set to recommend to the Department of Health (DOH) to shorten the waiting period before a person who tested positive for COVID-19 can be vaccinated.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Rontgene Solante, a member of the Vaccine Experts Panel, said the prescribed 90-day waiting time for the vaccination of those who recovered from the disease is “too long.”
He said they will suggest to the DOH to trim down the waiting period to 14 days or two weeks, stressing that the number of days must be counted starting on the day the person is cleared of the infection.
“Why will we wait for 90 days? Now, If you get the infection and you recovered, hindi ka na mag- wait ng 90 days, you give the vaccine when you are already asymptomatic and declared recovered,” he said.
“Ang guideline ngayon sa NITAG (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group), is that from recovery, maghintay tayo 2 weeks, it’s that period of time, not 90 days we just have to do it two weeks from naka-recover ang pasyente,” he added.
Solante added that they will also recommend to the DOH for all healthcare workers who received the first doses of the vaccine but still got infected with COVID-19 be given the second dose once they totally recovered.
The DOH earlier issued Department Memorandum 2021-0157 amending earlier vaccination guidelines which state that “individuals who became COVID-19 positive after receiving the first dose of vaccine, they should not be given the 2nd dose. For standardization and effective implementation of AEFI monitoring and causality investigation, vaccination can be restarted after 90 days with a new first dose of vaccine.”
The amended provision states that “all vaccine recipients who contracted COVID-19 after the first dose may be given the second dose provided a recommended interval of 14 days from recovery or completion of treatment are met, without restarting the vaccine dose schedule.”
As an infectious disease expert, Solante explained that the body needs several days between recovery and vaccination to ensure that the drugs are effective in protecting a person against severe diseases.
“Kapag meron kang active infection, kapag binakunahan ka, your vaccine will not work because your immune system is being stressed by that infection,” he said.
He also said the vaccine can be administered when the body is “not in particular stress.”
“The vaccine will work as long as you don’t have symptoms,” he said.
Solante also disclosed on Tuesday that the vaccine experts panel already gave a recommendation on whether Sinovac BioTech’s CoronaVac vaccine can be used on the elderly.
“At this point in time, we need the vaccine for those 60 years old and above. Ang available lang Sinovac or ang AstraZeneca,” he said.
“We just finished the recommendation the other day and hopefully, pino-forward na namin sa Department of Health regarding the use of Sinovac for more than 60 years old and above,” he said.
The Philippines has so far administered over 800,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots, mostly to healthcare workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbidities since the government rolled out the immunization program last March 1.
The government is targeting to inoculate 70 million people this year but the country has so far received 2.5 million doses due to the tight supply of vaccines. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)