Vaccines with extended shelf life safe – expert

COVID-19 vaccines continue to remain safe and effective even if their shelf life is extended by manufacturers, an infectious disease expert said.

The assurance comes after the Public Attorney's Office claimed that the Department of Health (DoH) uses “expired” vaccines in its Covid-19 booster vaccination program.

In a briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Rontgene Solante said the DoH would not use these vaccines if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not give its approval for the extension of their shelf life.

“The DoH won't release these vaccines if they are expired, and if they are indeed expired, the FDA and manufacturers have approved the extension of their shelf life,” Solante also said.

Health Officer in Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in her media briefing on Monday there was no truth to the assertions that the vaccines being used in the booster vaccination program were expired, as their shelf life had already been extended.

She added that manufacturers had made stability studies on the batches of vaccines in the country that was used as a basis for the FDA to extend their shelf life.

“Whatever we are distributing to our communities, these are vaccines that are within their expiry dates… They are still safe and effective as we have extended their shelf life,” Vergeire said.

Meanwhile, Solante said he agrees with possibly implementing a “trial run” of lifting mask mandates in urban areas in the country, but not for Metro Manila (National Capital Region or NCR).

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he is starting a trial run of his policy to enforce optional wearing of masks in public areas from September 1 to December 31 of this year.

“We can follow them, but not at this point in time of the pandemic…. At this point, if we allow everyone [to loosen] the mask wearing, then they will be more complacent not to get their boosters, and that is not acceptable” Solante said.

He added that there is still a need to protect the highly vulnerable population from Covid-19 despite the possibility of loosened restrictions.

“There is still the vulnerable population that is high-risk for severe Covid, there is high mortality in this population group,” Solante said.

He urged local government units to coordinate closely with the DoH in the enforcement of the optional mask mandate and also consult their own local experts to discuss the benefits and risks of optional masking.

Solante said the reopening of face-to-face classes to tertiary students, even to those unvaccinated, is not an excuse for them not to get the Covid-19 vaccine even if their age group is not part of the high-risk population that could catch severe Covid-19.

Some provinces outside Luzon have experienced declining positivity rates, according to OCTA Research.

In an infographic shared by senior research fellow Dr. Guido David, among the provinces whose positivity rates dipped from high risk to moderate were Aklan, Bohol, Capiz, Lanao del Norte, Negros Oriental and South Cotabato.

Only the provinces of Davao del Norte, which shifted from low risk to moderate risk, and Palawan had reported an increase in their positivity rates.

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