Govt to allow Sinovac recipients to choose any WHO-approved booster brand; guidelines likely out on Nov 15

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — The government will allow those who completed their Sinovac doses to choose any brand as booster shot that will be approved by regulatory bodies, the country's vaccine czar said on Wednesday.

Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, told CNN Philippines' The Source that they are waiting for the approved amendment of the current emergency use authorization issued to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers. The manufacturers are expected to submit their applications for the amended EUA of their boosters within the week.

Once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization-Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (WHO-SAGE) will give its final recommendation by mid-November on which vaccine brand can be used for a third dose or mixed with the previous doses administered.

He said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, intimated to the task force that the final guidelines will be out "more or less" on Nov.15, and the government will execute it immediately.

"Uunahin po natin ang (We will prioritize the) health workers and immunocompromised at later na yung other priority sectors," Abyeasinghe said.

"We are still waiting for the guidance from WHO if we can give the heterologous or different brand considering that...healthcare workers (want to) choose their own vaccine," Galvez said.

Asked whether Sinovac recipients will be allowed to choose their booster shots, Galvez said he personally does not find any problem with this because the country has an abundance of vaccines like Sinovac, Pfizer and Moderna, with more supplies coming later this year.

"In case sabihin ng WHO-SAGE na Pfizer, Moderna, Sputnik and even AstraZeneca are also viable doses for boosters, 'pag sinabi ng WHO na better ang mix-and-match, pwede nating i-deploy po yun," he said.

[Translation: In case WHO-SAGE approves Pfizer, Moderna, Sputnik and even AstraZeneca as viable doses for boosters, once WHO says they can be applied under mix-and-match, we can deploy them.]

However, Galvez noted that the government will have to wait for WHO's final say to prevent "discrimination" of other brands.

The Health department recently approved the recommendation of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to give booster shots for healthcare workers and senior citizens six months after they complete the single- or two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, while immunocompromised patients can get additional shots at least 28 days after they complete their vaccination.

READ: DOH approves guidelines for booster and additional COVID-19 vaccines, but no rollout yet 

Mixing-and-matching of vaccine brands is allowed for Sinovac and AstraZeneca, the HTAC said. It added that those who completed their Sinovac shots should preferably be given Pfizer or AstraZeneca as their booster six months after completing their two doses.

Boosters are given to those whose COVID-19 immunity has waned over time after vaccination while a third dose is for those who did not generate a strong immune response following COVID-19 immunization.