Healthcare workers in PH to get COVID-19 booster shots starting Nov. 17

Robie de Guzman   •   November 16, 2021   •   411

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will start giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to fully vaccinated healthcare workers on November 17, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

In an advisory released Monday night, the DOH said healthcare workers will be administered with either Moderna, Pfizer, and Sinovac booster doses regardless of the brand used in the primary series.

The agency said the recommendation was based on the emergency use authorization issued by the Food and Drug Administration.

The guidelines for the administration of booster shots will be released on November 16 by the National Vaccine Operations Center, the DOH said.

The use of booster shots and third dose has yet to be approved for the general population pending results of studies by health experts.

The national government earlier said that the additional doses will only be given to healthcare workers and other vulnerable sectors.

Pagpapababa sa presyo ng RT-PCR test pinag-aaralan ng DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 14, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Pinag-aaralan na ng Department of Health (DOH) kung maaaring mapababa ang presyo ng RT-PCR o swab test sa gitna ng lumulobong kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa.

Ang hakbang ay kasunod na rin ng reklamo sa mataas na presyo ng test at dami ng mga nagpapasuri.

Ayon kay DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, inaalam na nila ang paraan kung paano mapapamura ang presyo ng swab test upang hindi gaanong mabigatan ang bulsa ng mga Pilipino.

Noong Setyembre 2021, sinabi ng DOH na dapat ay naglalaro lang sa P2,000 hanggang P3,000 ang presyo ng RT-PCR test sa mga pampubliko at pribadong laboratoryo.

Mula ito sa dating presyo na P3,000 hanggang P5,000.

DOH updates isolation, quarantine times for COVID-19 cases, close contacts

Robie de Guzman   •   January 13, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has disclosed that the protocols for the isolation and quarantine durations for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and close contacts have been updated amid the rapidly rising number of infections in the country.

During a Zoom presentation published on Wednesday, DOH Spokesperson, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the isolation period for fully vaccinated persons with mild COVID-19 will now be shortened from 10 days to seven days from onset of symptoms.

For fully vaccinated asymptomatic cases, the isolation period will be seven days from their positive RT-PCR test result.

“Ten days isolation is retained for those that are partially or unvaccinated, and those with moderate symptoms regardless of vaccination status,” Vergeire said.

“Meanwhile, the isolation period has been retained to 21 days for those with severe and critical disease, and those immunocompromised as outlined by the living CTG panel,” she added.

Vergeire said that for fully vaccinated health workers with boosters, their isolation duration can be shortened to five days by hospital infection prevention and control committee and/or provincial health offices upon careful assessment of benefits and risk.

“They shall also be expanded to other sectors with strict industry standards on IPC subject with IATF approval,” she added.

The quarantine period for fully vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts, Vergeire said, will be shortened to five days from the previous seven days.

“For the quarantine of asymptomatic close contacts for the general public, policies are to be from seven days, we shortened it to five days for those who are fully vaccinated, and we retained 14 days for partially or unvaccinated individuals,” Vergeire said.

“All individuals should also be reminded to continue monitoring their symptoms, wear their mask, and implement minimum public health standards for 14 days,” she added.

The quarantine period for fully vaccinated health workers will be cut short to five days while those with boosters may no longer undergo quarantine period

A note on the slide showing the update quarantine period stated that this is still subject to IATF approval/DOH guidelines.

The DOH said isolation is for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine is for those who have been exposed and can possibly develop infection.

Vergeire also said that the testing of asymptomatic close contacts would not be required unless they developed symptoms.

“For healthcare workers that are considered asymptomatic close contacts, for the sake of uniformity, they will follow the five days quarantine similar to the general public, provided, they are fully vaccinated,” she said.

The DOH would also retain that the hospital prevention and control committees could further shorten the healthcare workers’ quarantine with boosters depending on the situations, risks, and benefits, she added.

During the presentation, Vergeire said the update in the DOH guidelines was “deemed necessary” because “the differences in guidelines for quarantine and isolation of travelers, the general public, and specific sectors like healthcare workers had been causing confusion on the ground.”

She also said that amid the continuous rise in the number of cases, most of these remain asymptomatic and mild, which showed the effectiveness of the vaccines against severe COVID-19.

Patients who contracted the Omicron variant also showed milder symptoms that those that caught the Delta variant.

“The prolonged quarantine and isolation duration has been causing strain to our healthcare system and our economy,” Vergeire said.

“Our experts believed that specifically in the Omicron variant the benefits of shortening the quarantine outweighs the risk,” she added.

Vergeire also noted that other countries were also updating their protocols on quarantine and isolation periods.

“While the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is the most aggressive example by bringing down their isolation and quarantine periods to five days, we also see other countries moving down from 14 days to 10 days,” she said.

“The updated policy of the Philippines attempts to find acceptable standards give our current context and allow more flexibility to groups and sectors that can strictly implement infection, prevention, and control procedures,” she added.

Vergeire said the updated policy will be issued in the next few days after it has been presented to and approved by the IATF.

Omicron now dominant COVID-19 variant in PH, Duque says

Robie de Guzman   •   January 11, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The highly transmissible Omicron variant is now the dominant coronavirus variant in the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Based on the latest whole genome sequencing conducted on January 3, Duque said that 6.42 percent or 29 out of the 48 samples tested were found with the Omicron variant while 37.5 percent or 18 were Delta variant.

“So siya na po ‘yung nagdo-dominate na variant whereas before it was the Delta. So 60 percent of all the sequence runs ay Omicron na po,” Duque said in his report during a pre-taped public briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte aired late Monday.

The Department of Health (DOH) last week reported it has detected a total of 43 cases of Omicron variant in the country.

The Philippines on Monday reported 33,169 new COVID-19 infections, a new record daily spike. The latest data has pushed the country’s total caseload to nearly 3 million since the outbreak in 2020.

Duque also reported that the average daily reported cases jumped by 690 percent from January 4 to 10 with an average daily increase of 20,481 cases compared to the 7-day moving average from December 28 to January 3 at 2,593.

“So napakalaki po nang itinaas nito,” he said.

He added that most of the newly reported cases were from the National Capital Region, followed by the Region 4A and Region 3.

This means that three regions were in critical risk classification, while other regions were in high risk. This also meant that the whole Philippines is at critical risk classification for COVID-19.

“Ang Pilipinas nasa 3,663 percent, positive po ‘yan na talagang ang tulin, ang bilis ng kalat ng mga kaso. At ang kanyang average daily attack rate nasa 10.47 per 100,000 (population). Lampas po ito doon sa one to seven which was moderate about four weeks ago. Ngayon, lumampas na po tayo kaya critical na po tayo,” he said.

“Kaya napakamahalaga po na bantayan itong mga lugar na ito at paigtingin ang atin pong tugon gamit ang ating mask, hugas, iwas, ventilation, and vaccination strategy,” he added.

Duque also noted an increase in the utilization rates of hospital, intensive care unit (ICU) and mechanical ventilation nationwide.

He said that as of Monday, January 10, forty percent (40%) of hospital beds are being used for COVID-19 cases, while 38 percent for ICU, and 17 percent for mechanical ventilation.

“Karamihan ng mga rehiyon ay nagkaroon ng kani-kanilang pagtaas ng tatlong panukatan at ‘yun na nga… Kaya naman aming pinaaalalahanan ang mga ospital na bigyang prayoridad ang pagtanggap o pag-admit ng atin pong mga moderate, severe, at critical cases at makipag-ugnayan sa atin pong One Hospital Command Center upang mai-refer ang mga mild at asymptomatic na pasyente sa mga Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs),” he said.

“At kung papasa sa requirements ay maaaring sa kani-kanilang mga bahay na po mag-isolate ang mga ito. So napakamalaking bagay po na sundin po ito para madecongest ang ating mga facilities,” he added.

The health chief also noted that compared to previous COVID-19 case surges, there were less severe and critical cases.

“Habang nakikita natin na patuloy na tumataas ang ating mga kaso nationwide, ating nakikita rin po na mas mababa ang ating naitatalang severe at critical cases kung ikukumpara noong ating kasagsagan noong nakaraang September 2022 na kung saan ‘yung Delta variant ang rumaragasa,” he said.

Of the 8,569 total hospital admissions as of January 9, Duque said that 636 or 7 percent were severe, while 271 or 3 percent were critical cases.

“Ang sinasalamin po nito ay ang pagiging epektibo ng atin pong pagbabakuna at pagsunod sa minimum public health standards: ang mask, hugas, iwas,” he said.

Duque said the Philippines has experienced four cases surges already excluding the current one.

“We actually already have four surges ano po. Ito ‘yung March-April; JulyAugust; then we have the April — March-April; and then we have the latest which was August-September,” he said.

He called on local government units to further intensify the implementation of public health protocols and contact tracing, as well as impose granular lockdowns in communities with reported cases clusterings.

Duque also reminded the public to remain vigilant by properly wearing face masks, avoid gathering and activities in crowded places, and get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible.

He also stressed the importance of immediately going into isolation when a person experiences the onset of cough, fever, colds and other flu-like symptoms to prevent transmission.

“Kung ikaw ay nakararanas ng sintomas, agad po tayong mag-self-isolate, bigyang alerto ang lahat po ng inyong barangay health emergency response teams sa inyo pong komunidad, at magpasuri o magpa-test sa tamang panahon,” he said.

“Muli, nananawagan kami sa lahat na tayo ay magtulung-tulungan at gawin natin ang ating bahagi upang mapigilan ang patuloy na pagtaas ng mga kaso at muling maibaba ito,” he added.

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