Thursday, June 20, 2024
HomePress ReleaseNo Budget for New COVID-19 Vaccines Against 'FLiRT' Variants

No Budget for New COVID-19 Vaccines Against ‘FLiRT’ Variants

The Department of Health (DOH) has announced that the government has no budget allocated this year for procuring updated COVID-19 vaccines to protect vulnerable Filipinos from the new “Flirt” variants causing a surge in infections globally.

The elderly and others with weakened immune systems must be protected from the rapidly spreading Flirt variations by these new vaccines. Four years after the pandemic started, these variations are causing worry even though they are not thought to be fatal.

Assistant Secretary Albert Domingo, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, stated that while immunity from the initial COVID-19 vaccination and booster doses given between 2021 and 2023 hasn’t entirely vanished, it has gradually decreased.

Unfortunately, the budget for 2024 does not include funding for the purchase of updated vaccines that are more potent against the Flirt strains. According to Domingo, routine childhood immunizations are the primary use of the department’s existing funding.

Public health needs assessments inform the distribution of funds for COVID-19 immunization. As before, there might not be as pressing a need to budget for and obtain vaccinations when the majority of cases are minor, according to Domingo.

Due to low vaccination rates during pandemic lockdowns, the nation is currently also battling outbreaks of whooping cough and measles.

Reliance on Donations

The Global Health Partnership, Gavi Vaccine Alliance, has pledged one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The DOH is reliant on donations to fund COVID-19 vaccines, with the goal of ensuring that children in the world’s poorest countries have equal access to these essential shots. It is anticipated that the first batch, consisting of 500,000 dosages, would arrive in Q2.

“The DOH is processing this to obtain the best and most updated COVID-19 vaccines available,” Domingo said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must support and accept applications for the registration of updated COVID-19 vaccinations so that local distribution is possible, as the DOH has underlined.

One year after President Marcos withdrew the COVID-19 public health emergency designation on July 23, 2023, the emergency use authorizations for nine COVID-19 vaccinations that were previously delivered will expire in July. These vaccinations are not allowed to be given or sold in the United States without an FDA certificate of product registration (CPR).

Regarding the country’s access to updated COVID-19 vaccine brands, the FDA has not provided a statement. The Comirnaty bivalent vaccination from Pfizer was given a CPR by the FDA in June of last year, but as of August 2023, it was still unavailable locally.

Screening and Monitoring

In order to rigorously examine visitors from nations where Flirt variant instances have been reported, the administration put the nation’s airports and seaports on high alert on Monday.

Numerous nations, including Singapore, Thailand, India, China, Hong Kong, Nepal, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and several European nations have reported finding the Flirt varieties. The technical designations of the mutations creating these novel variants, which are primarily offshoots of the Omicron variant, led to the creation of the acronym Flirt.

Even though there is now no proof that these variants produce severe to critical COVID-19 instances, the World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized the significance of continuing to monitor these variations. The Department of Health has recommended that Filipinos stick to the minimal requirements for health, which include donning face masks in public and in crowded areas.

Dr. Rontgene Solante, an infectious disease specialist, has cautioned caution even though there are no proven cases of the Flirt variations in the Philippines, particularly for vulnerable populations like the elderly and immunocompromised people.

Seasonal Concerns

Additionally, Solante cautioned that the Flirt variations’ appearance might coincide with the rainy season, which frequently brings illnesses like pneumonia and influenza that resemble COVID-19.

“It is just unfortunate that because of the mutations, we are no longer protected against these new variants from the previous COVID-19 shots we received,” Solante said.

He mentioned that the Philippines does not yet have access to the upgraded and reformulated COVID-19 vaccines that are available abroad. If you have never had a COVID-19 vaccination, the WHO advises getting one dose; if you have impaired immune system, you should have two or three doses. Six to twelve months after the last dosage, a revaccination is recommended for people who have already had one, especially healthcare workers, pregnant women, older adults, and those with comorbidities.

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