DOH OKs COVID-19 booster shot for minors aged 12-17, partially issues guidelines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — The Department of Health (DOH) has approved giving COVID-19 booster vaccines for minors aged 12-17, although only guidelines for those immunocompromised have so far been released.

Secretary Francisco Duque III had approved the recommendation of the Health Technology Assessment Council, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire announced on Tuesday.

In a memorandum, the DOH said 0.3 mL of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be given as a third dose for immunocompromised 12-to-17-year-olds at least 28 days from the second shot.

Meanwhile, the guidelines for the rest of the said age group — which are needed for the rollout to start — are not yet out.

Who are considered immunocompromised?

According to the DOH, the following adolescents may get their third vaccine shot:

- Individuals who have been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood;

- Individuals who had received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system;

- Individuals who received a stem cell transplant within the last two (2) years or are taking medicines to suppress the immune system.

- Individuals with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome);

- Individuals with advanced or untreated HIV infection;

- Individuals with active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress immune response;

- Individuals on chronic dialysis;

- People living with autoimmune disease, and treatment with specific immunosuppressive medications; and

- Individuals diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromised state as advised by the attending physician (e.g. severe malnutrition).

How will the rollout be done?

Only hospital-based sites will be allowed to administer the additional shots to immunocompromised kids, according to the DOH.

The rollout will also be conducted in a phased approach, beginning with a pilot run in select sites in Metro Manila – a list of which has yet to be released.

A nationwide initial rollout will then follow. This means inclusion of all participating hospital-based sites in the capital region and the start of a pilot rollout in all other regions “based on the readiness of selected hospital-based vaccination sites,” the DOH said.

Last would be the nationwide full-scale rollout, it added.

The timelines of each phase shall be determined by the National Vaccine Operations Center, in coordination with centers for health development.

What requirements are needed?

The DOH said eligible immunocompromised recipients must present the following:

- Vaccination card with complete details of the administered two doses of the primary series;

- A medical certification given by the attending pediatric/physician detailing the conditions qualified under the definition of the immunocompromised populations; shall be secured prior to the vaccination schedule and shall be presented in the registration area in the vaccination site;

- Valid identification cards or documents with a photo of the parent/guardian and the vaccine recipient;

- Document/s to prove filiation/guardianship

“An informed consent given and signed by the parent/guardian, together with an assent given and signed by the vaccine recipient, are both required prior to the administration of an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose,” the department added.

However, it noted that should the child be incapable of agreeing to be vaccinated due to neurological comorbidities or moderate to severe intellectual impairment, the parent or the authorized parental substitute can sign on his/her behalf.

The vaccination of children aged 12-17 started in September 2021.

Government data shows that as of June 17, more than 70 million of the target population have been fully vaccinated. Around 14.7 million have received their first booster shot, while 648,555 have gotten their second booster dose.