Infectious disease expert prefers variant-specific boosters for general population

Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante on Sunday said that a variant-specific vaccine should be given as a booster dose for the general population as it may be more effective against the more transmissible Omicron variant.

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, Solante, who is also a Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) member, pointed out that the booster uptake among the general population is still low.

He stressed that the first booster shot is vital for everyone to protect themselves against COVID-19, considering that the efficacy of primary vaccine series wanes after a few months.

“Kung mag-booster man tayo sa general public, hintayin na lang natin kung darating na ‘yung tinatawag natin na mga variant-specific vaccines na talagang mas mataas ang proteksyon against the Omicron rather than giving itong mga 1st generation na mga bakuna na medyo hindi masyadong maganda ang proteksyon against the Omicron in terms of getting the infection,” he said.

(If we are going to give booster shots to the general public, let’s just wait for the variant-specific vaccines that can give higher protection against the Omicron rather than giving them 1st generation vaccines that may give them less protection against the Omicron infection.)

In January, Moderna announced that it started clinical trials of a booster dose of vaccine designed specifically to combat the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

A month after, Dr. Mario Jiz of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, however, cited a study showing there is no significant difference in the protection offered by the Moderna COVID-19 booster vaccine and the Moderna Omicron-specific booster dose against Omicron.

He said the booster shots being given now are still effective against Omicron.

Recent data from National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) showed that 14,704,514 individuals have received their first booster shots, while 648,555 have received the second booster dose.

Currently, the second booster shot could only be given only to frontline healthcare workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals.

The health workers and elderly can take their second booster shot four months after their first booster dose, while immunocompromised individuals have to wait for three months after their first booster shot. –KG, GMA News

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