AN official of the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday confirmed that Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III has approved the recommendation by the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to administer Covid-19 vaccine booster shots and third dose for listed priority groups.
“The Secretary [Duque] has approved the recommendation of HTAC. Lahat po ng plano ay under way na kagaya ng sabi namin sa inyo [All plans are under way just like what we have told you] we will have this third doses for our immunocompromised [people], senior citizens, and boosters for our health-care workers,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online forum.
Vergeire, however said that they are still awaiting the release of the emergency use authority (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration.
“While we are waiting for the EUA…we are already planning and discussing how we can do about with the implementation,” Vergeire added.
On October 13, HTAC wrote to Duque recommending that the first in line to get booster shots would be the health-care workers and this will be done during the last three months of the year.
They will be followed by seniors and “eligible priority groups” next year. An additional dose will be administered starting this year to immunocompromised individuals, but only after 28 days from completion of the initial Covid-19 vaccine series, the letter stated.
Earlier, the DOH noted that based on its review as of September 21, only 12 countries in the world have started to administer booster shots.
These countries have focused on administering booster shots among their elderly and immunocompromised population groups in very limited settings. Majority of these countries have achieved more than 50 percent coverage for primary series of their population.
The government also has allotted P45 billion for booster shots under the proposed 2022 national budget.
The DOH also announced on Monday that the country is now at a low risk classification, even as six regions are at moderate risk classification.
Undersecretary Vergeire said that the country is at low risk case classification “with a negative two-week growth rate at negative 48 percent and a moderate risk average daily attack rate at 5.89 cases per every 100,000 individuals.”
“The national health system capacity is also at moderate risk. All of the regions now with a negative two-week growth rate and low to moderate risk case classification,” Vergeire said adding that six regions were recorded with high-risk daily attack rates. Regions 2, 9, and 5 have ICU utilization rates at high risk, while remaining regions have low to moderate beds and/or ICU utilization.
Vergeire also said that Regions 2, 9, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Region 4B, Region 1, and National Capital Region (NCR) are at moderate risk.
“Decline in cases is seen at the national level and in most regions; however, majority of provinces and cities in CAR, Regions 1, 2, 4B, and 9 remain at moderate to high risk classification with beds and/or ICU utilization rates at high to critical risk,” Vergeire added.
For October 24, 2021, the top regions of new cases are: NCR-1,010, Region 2-646, Region 3-469, Region 4B-426, and Region 4A-423.
Top areas of new cases are: Isabela-309, Quezon City-205, Negros Oriental-165, Pangasinan-161, and Cagayan-152.
Average daily cases reached baseline cases prior to steep increase at the end of July. The average daily reported cases: October 18-24: 5,251, October 11-17: 7,726, October 4-October 10: 10,478 , September 27-October 3: 14,677. The new peak was recorded on September 6-12: 20,946 as compared to the peak recorded on July 23-29: 5,399.
The DOH added that NCR shows a slow downward trend with reported cases decreased by 35 percent versus the previous seven days.
On Monday, the DOH logged 4,405 additional Covid-19 cases, with 7,561 recoveries and 149 deaths.
The Covid-19 cases in the country stood at 2,761,307.
“Total beds utilization is now on a decline for the past weeks,” Vergeire said.
From July 1 to October 24, total beds increased by 1,203 (13 percent), while occupied beds also increased by 408 (12 percent).
Meanwhile, ICU beds are at moderate-risk utilization, the DOH added.
From July 1 to October 24, total ICU beds increased by 337 (30 percent), while occupied ICU beds also increased by 227 (50 percent).
Vergeire said that national deaths show several peaks during the August to September period.
Data from DOH showed that in August the total deaths recorded was at 5,189 with 167 average number of deaths per day, Septembe-4,757 (159), and October (1-24 )-1,633 (68).
Vergeire, likewise, stressed the need to observe measures to sustain the decline in cases as the holiday season approaches and mobility is expected to increase.
These measures are:
Adhering to masking and physical distancing and avoiding 3Cs or closed spaces, crowded areas, and close contact activities is most important to prevent transmission.
Ramping up vaccination to protect vulnerable population especially of A2 and A3 priority groups.
Maintaining short detection-to-isolation time to control transmission as soon as possible.