(File photo)

MANILA – Giving a second booster of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine to over 72.1 million fully-vaccinated individuals is not a solution to address wastage, Malacañang said on Saturday.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles echoed the statement of Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire that the second booster or fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine should only be administered to people aged 50 and above, as well as those 18 to 49 years old with comorbidities.

The DOH, nevertheless, will ramp up its "PinasLakas" Covid-19 vaccine drive to encourage more Filipinos to receive the first booster, Cruz-Angeles said.

"Kaugnay ito sa isyu ng Covid-19 vaccine wastage, kung saan sinabi ng DOH na hindi solusyon dito ang pagbibigay ng second booster para sa lahat (This is related to what the DOH has said that administering second booster to all is not a solution to address the issue of Covid-19 vaccine wastage)," she said in a Facebook post.

Cruz-Angeles also noted that there is an ongoing study on the possible administration of a second booster shot to other priority groups.

"Pinag-aaralan pa ang pagbibigay nito sa ibang priority groups para masiguro ang kaligtasan ng lahat laban sa Covid-19 (Giving [second booster] to other priority groups is still being studied to ensure everyone's protection against Covid-19)," she said.

As of Aug. 12, a total of 20,660,354 Covid-19 vaccines were wasted, the DOH reported on Monday.

Despite the vaccine wastage, Vergeire was opposed to the idea of administering a second booster shot to all the fully-vaccinated individuals in the country.

In a press briefing on Friday, Vergeire said there is still no "complete and enough basis" to give a second booster to more than 72.1 million individuals.

"Sinasabi nila kasi, para maubos na lang ang bakuna, payagan na ang rest of the population for the second booster shot (They are saying we have to use all the vaccines by administering it as second booster shot to the rest of the population)," she said.

"We base our decisions on science and evidence. We need to ensure and protect the health of Filipinos. And by saying that, hindi po kami magbibigay ng bakuna sa ating mga kababayan ng walang sapat na ebidensya (we will not give vaccines to our countrymen without sufficient evidence)," Vergeire added.

The emergency use authorization issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only allows individuals who are 50 years old and above, as well as those from 18 to 49 age group that have comorbidities, to receive a second booster against Covid-19.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the only brands that could be used as a second booster shot.

The eligible individuals can only receive the second booster at least four months after being inoculated with the first booster.

On Wednesday, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. received the additional dose against Covid-19 to prove the vaccine is "safe, effective, and needed" to strengthen immunity against severe coronavirus infection.

The DOH on July 26 launched the "PinasLakas" Covid-19 booster campaign to help maintain the country's wall of immunity against the virus.

The DOH aims to raise booster dose coverage to 50 percent of the total target population before Oct. 8, 2022, which marks the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.

As of Aug. 14, around 17,015,413 of the 72,107,090 fully-vaccinated individuals have received an additional dose of Covid-19 vaccine, based on DOH data. (PNA)