22 July 2022

WITH millions of vaccines expired and expiring, we can no longer ignore the issue of vaccine wastage. Extension of vaccine validity for 6 months was made but guidelines for its use seem restrictive. Second booster shots are still not allowed for the A3 population and those 50yo and above

Our health authorities are saying “experts are looking into it.” Meanwhile, the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) is saying they are still studying it and the FDA has to study it again. Parang pasahan lang ng sagot.

Pingpong seems to be the norm.

Where is the Interim NITAG for Covid19 Vaccine (I-NITAG) in the picture? The real group of vaccinology and immunology experts seemed to have been silenced.

National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs) are multidisciplinary groups of national experts responsible for providing independent, evidence-informed advice to policy makers and programme managers on policy issues related to immunization and vaccines. NITAGs are an important component of national immunization programs.

The Global NITAG Network (GNN) is a global platform that helps foster collaborations, sharing of experiences and knowledge exchange among NITAGs across all regions. This is the platform where scientifically sound and evidence-based recommendations on immunization through global collaboration and cooperation from different members, is achieved.

On March 11 of this year, the FDA issued an EUA for Sinovac/Coronavac to children aged six and above. In an online media forum held during the same month, Usec Rosario Vergeire said all necessary documents were already submitted to the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) and that they are still waiting for the recommendation on the roll out of Coronavac to the pediatric population.  Four months have passed since then and no implementation guidelines have been issued. The vaccines are now expiring in warehouses. Dagdag proteksyon sana ito para sa mga batang papasok na sa paaralan sa susunod na buwan. Some prefer the inactivated vaccine since it’s the conventional way with very minimal side effects and good immunogenicity among the young.

We seem to be in an impasse? What are the problems needing solutions? Kailangan malaman natin ang mga problema para mapag-usapan at masolusyunan.

Our point of discussion here is vaccination: supply versus demand; protection versus cure. If it won’t harm the public but instead give additional protection, why prevent others from having it? If a 30yo nursing aide or a 25yo hospital receptionist can have a second booster for added protection, what makes them different from drivers, waiters, utility workers, factory workers, security guards, salesperson who are exposed to the general public

Omicron sub variants are spreading like measles. The NITAG is the proper body to advise the DOH since they have access to other NITAGS in other countries and most of the members are working with WHO on vaccine related information


Here are some recommendations in what we can do to cut through this impasse:


  1. DOH to immediately activate NITAG (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group). Let this pool of vaccinology experts guide the Secretary of Health. The NITAG and/or the Vaccine Expert Panel are the same pool of vaccinology experts that FDA and DOH consults


  1. This will balance vaccine availability, safety, economic impact, public health and the current profile of covid admitted patients which already includes A3 population below 60 years old


  1. The Secretary of Health can now be properly guided and implement the decision whether to allow a second booster for those with comorbidities and the general population aged 50yo and above.


  1. In parallel, DOH has to speak up and convey the restrictive provisions of the Universal Health Care Law and COVID Vaccination Program Act. We can’t address a problem if we don’t acknowledge that something is wrong.


  1. The President listens. Speak up so that amendment to these laws can be certified urgent and we make the delivery of health care services available, accessible, affordable and doable.


  1. Immediate revival and recognition of NITAG will guide our government on the urgent steps needed to address the continued backslide in OTHER vaccination programs fueled by the COVID19 pandemic.