On the Role of the Health Technology Assessment Council in COVID-19 vaccination
Released on 28 June 2022
This is a clarification on the role of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) in the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program.
For any COVID-19 vaccine dose to be rolled out, there must be, in this sequence, (1) an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA); (2) a positive recommendation by HTAC based on a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation; and then (3) National COVID-19 Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) implementation guidelines.
On 21 June 2022, HTAC recommended the use of Pfizer-BioNTech as a first booster / third dose for the adolescent population ages 12 to 17 years, only seven days after the release of the FDA EUA. HTAC always defers to the NVOC on the implementation or roll-out of the vaccines (including boosters), considering the local conditions and field practicalities. HTAC only mentioned the prerequisite of a 40-70% booster coverage among the Priority Groups A1 to A3 in line with the need to first protect the most vulnerable: healthcare workers, senior citizens, and adults with co-morbidities. We are one with the DOH and its experts on the importance of improving the coverage of the primary series and also the first booster of all adults.
Regarding calls for the second booster / fourth dose of all adults 18-59 years old, as well as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), seafarers, and the economic sector: HTAC has not yet received an EUA from the FDA. Neither has there been a WHO recommendation. The latest statement from WHO reads thus: “[S]tudies show some short-term benefit of an additional booster dose of mRNA vaccine in health workers, those over 60 years of age or with immunocompromising conditions. Data to support an additional dose for healthy younger populations are limited; preliminary data suggest that in younger people, the benefit is minimal” (WHO, 17 May 2022).
To reiterate the process: for any COVID-19 vaccine dose to be rolled out, there must be, in this sequence, (1) an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA); (2) a positive recommendation by HTAC based on a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation; and then (3) National COVID-19 Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) implementation guidelines. FDA, HTAC, and DOH all follow this process in accordance with RA 9711 (Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009), RA 11223 (Universal Healthcare Act), and RA 11525 (COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021).
As a body that deliberates dependable scientific data and follows an evidence-based decision-making process, the HTAC continues to emphasize the need to enhance the coverage of primary and booster vaccination among our higher priority groups A1 to A3 across the country. This will have a more substantial impact in preventing infection, hospitalization and deaths;preserving the health system; and keeping the economy open. We are one with all concerned in achieving these three goals.