Press Release | 23 September 2021

The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said that it has finished an online series of consultative meetings among healthcare workers discussing multiple layers of protection, conducted from September 21 to 22, 2021.

The consultative meetings were attended by more than 6,000 healthcare workers from different cadres including nurses, physicians, midwives, pharmacists, medical and laboratory technicians. Various Experts from the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG), Technical Advisory Group (TAG), and the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) were also in attendance in the said meetings.

During the consultative meetings, HTAC presented the latest available evidence based on their evidence appraisal on available studies. The HTAC Evaluation Framework was based on the following criteria for technologies: responsiveness to magnitude, severity, and equity; safety and effectiveness; household financial impact; social impact; cost-effectiveness; and affordability and viability. To date, evidence is insufficient and inconclusive to support the administration of booster doses. The expert group also recognized that evidence continues to come in and that they will continuously consider changes in evidence in their review and recommendations.

The DOH presented the findings on root cause analysis done by hospital infection prevention and control committees on the causes of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers. The DOH said that it can be summarized into four themes namely, engineering controls or enforcement of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) standards, PPE use such as wearing of appropriate PPE sizes, breaks in administrative control such as the use of public transport and having to go out for food during duty, and HCW behavior such as eating together in the pantry.

“To reiterate protocols for minimizing workplace-related infections for meals while on shift, hospitals and workplaces should try to adopt staggered meal schedules, eating alone in the workstation is highly encouraged, dining in canteens may be allowed provided that employees shall strictly comply with the physical distancing of at least one meter and shall be prohibited from talking with each other,” said DOH Spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.

The DOH also underscored the importance of ensuring the most vulnerable groups such as senior citizens and persons with underlying conditions are vaccinated to protect them from being hospitalized or dying due to COVID-19.

“The DOH has always been basing its policies and recommendations on available evidence and local contextual factors. While we support the administration of booster shots among our healthcare workers, more evidence is needed to show the safety and benefits of administering booster doses. Furthermore, with scarce vaccine supply, the government has to increase the primary series coverage among high-risk groups. DOH, on the other hand, remains committed to ensuring that support and protection are in place for our healthcare workers,” said Usec. Singh-Vergeire.