PHL attains ‘substantial population immunity’, OCTA Research fellow says

Robie de Guzman   •   December 7, 2021   •   182

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines may have already attained “substantial population immunity” to COVID-19 amid decreasing number of coronavirus infections recorded in the past few weeks, an OCTA Research fellow said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during the pre-taped public address aired late Monday, OCTA Research fellow Nicanor Austriaco said the country had the highest mobility levels in the past 20 months and experienced the lowest levels of cases and hospitalizations during the same period even with the presence of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Delta is said to be the most contagious variant of COVID-19.

“And so what these three mean together is that it suggests that we have attained substantial population immunity from natural infections and vaccinations in the urban areas of the Philippines because the pandemic has raged and spread primarily in our cities and in our first class municipalities,” Austriaco said.

“And so the fact that the virus is struggling to find new Filipinos to infect, suggests that we have attained substantial population immunity,” he added.

Comparing the Philippines with its three neighbors in Southeast Asia, Thailand and Malaysia still haven’t seen dip in cases despite having much earlier surges and the two nations are still experiencing 5,000 cases per day.

Vietnam, he said, also had a Delta peak. Unfortunately, Delta has resurged and Vietnam is still experiencing significant numbers of COVID-19 at 15,000 or so every day.

The difference, Austriaco noted, is that the Philippines had substantial waves of previous variants especially the Alpha and Beta, which struck the country in March and April of this year unlike these three other countries.

“And so combining the vaccinations and the natural immunity, what you are seeing here is that many of our cities where the pandemic tends to focus, are now stable enough to prevent transmission,” he said.

The OCTA Research fellow also advised Filipinos not to panic amid the threat posed by COVID-19 Omicron variant, and instead move with caution in celebrating the holidays.

“And so this is not the time to panic. It is the time to be careful. We have to prepare. But we also have to celebrate especially since this is Christmas,” he said.

Austriaco suggested that the country prepare its hospital infrastructure and increase healthcare workers staffing capacity, as he noted reports on nursing staff shortages in Metro Manila during the Alpha and Delta surges in the country.

The government also has to continue vaccinating and boosting the immunity of its population especially senior citizens, he added.

He likewise suggested the strengthening of population immunity around international gateways as the Omicron variant will likely enter the country through an airport.

The Omicron, which was recently classified as variant of concern by the World Health Organization, has not yet been detected in the Philippines.

“I must urge you to get vaccinated because Omicron, when it arrives in the Philippines, will find every unvaccinated Filipino. And you will get sick, and even though it is mild, it is still COVID-19,” he said.

The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated more than 38 million Filipinos against COVID-19.

Since March, the government has administered 91.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses – more than 56 million of this number was given as first doses.

DOH reiterates recommendation to double face mask

Maris Federez   •   January 26, 2022

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) once again stressed the importance of taking extra effort to ensure one’s protection and safety against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

DOH Spokesperson Usec Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department is encouraging the use of double face masks to maximize the filtration of particulate matter.

“Mag-double mask upang ma-maximize ang protection at ang filtration. Atin din pong siguraduhin na hindi po maluwag at tama ang fit ng mask na ating susuotin,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire said air particles or viruses are tightly filtered if the face mask being worn is thick and is securely fit to cover the nose and the mouth.

Health officials also said that they still do not recommend the use of cloth masks alone.

“Iyong cloth, definately, ay dapat palitan ng surgical mask. Kung kaya pwede mag-doble ng surgical mask. At kung ikaw ay nagwo-work sa mga enclosed areas or iyong mga high-risk setting, iyong mga kausap mo ay talagang positive like sa mga laboratory or clinic maganda iyon KN-95,” said Dr. Ted Herbosa, a medical adviser of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19.

Infectious disease expert Doctor Rontgene Solante said that if one wants to use a cloth mask, it must be worn on top of a surgical mask for a secured fit.

“Even a surgical mask is still okay. Iyong cloth mask pwedeng doblehin lang with a surgical mask para lang karagdagang proteksyon. Pero ang importante dito ay wearing it consistently and wearing it properly,” Solante said.

Solante added that while N-95 masks ensure more protection against viruses, due to limited supply, health workers must be given priority in using them as they are the ones directly in contact in taking care of COVID-19 patients.

“Kung gagamit man tayo ng KN-95 o N-95 baka mahirapan tayo sa supply. Itong mga mask na ito ay napaka-importante nito sa mga healthcare workers o healthcare facilities,” the health expert said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Aileen Cerrudo)


Self-test kits na aprubado ng FDA, mabibili lang sa mga otorisadong drug outlets – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Maaari nang mabili sa mga lisensiyado at aprubadong drug outlets ang dalawang brand ng COVID-19 Antigen Self-test kits, ayon sa Department of Health (DOH).

Ito ay matapos aprubahan ng Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ang aplikasyon ng special certification ng dalawang kumpanya para sa self-test kits na tinatawag na Abbot’s Panbio at Labnovation Technologies SARS-CoV2 Antigen rapid test.

Una nang iniulat ni FDA officer in charge Oscar Gutierrez na nabigyan na ng sertipikasyon ang dalawang brand at maaari nang gamitin sa bansa.

“Ang Panbio COVID-19 antigen self-test kit ng Abbot available po siya sa 1, 4, 10, and 20 tests per box. At yung SARS-CoV-2- antigen rapid test ng Labnovation Technologies Incorporated ito po ay self-test for home use din. Available po siya ng 2,5, and 20 tests per box,” ani Gutierrez.

Pero paalala ng Department of Health na may tamang proseso at panahon ang paggamit ng self-test kits upang masegurong tama ang ilalabas nitong resulta.

Ayon kay Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, mas mainam gamitin ang self-test kits kung may sintomas ang isang tao upang matiyak na accurate ang resulta ng kit.

“Please use it rationally, use it at the right time at tamang proseso. Ibig sabihin gagamit lang po kayo ng test kapag kayo ay nakakaramdam ng sintomas dahil ang antigen test po ay most accurate pa rin kapag kayo po ay nakakaranas ng sintomas dulot ng COVID-19,” ani Vergeire.

Ang panawagan naman ng Infectious Diseases expert na si Dr. Rontgene Solante, bigyang-prayoridad sa paggamit ng test kit ang mga may sintomas at nasa vulnerable population gaya ng mga matatanda upang agad malaman ang kanilang kondisyon at malapatan ng karampatang lunas.

“I-prioritize natin ang paggamit nitong antigen test doon sa mga may symptoms at vulnerable population. Bakit? Because these are the population that are kailangan na kung mag-positive meron tayong gamot na mga anti-viral or monoclonal antibodies para hindi po lalala ang mga infections nila to severe COVID at hindi sila maho-hospitalize,” ani Solante.

May pagkakaiba rin ang Antigen self-test kits sa rapid test kits na kalimitang ginagamit sa mga ospital at laboratory kaya payo ng DOH sa publiko na basahing mabuti ang instructional manual na nakapaloob sa bibilihing test kits.

“Ang kaibahan nito ay iyong pong specimen na kinokolekta. Ito pong mga self-administered test kits usually would have nasal specimens po ang kinukuha. Ibig sabihin kapag nasal specimen, di ganun kalalim sa inyong ilong ang pagkuha ng specimen for this test kits compared doon sa current na kailangan na guided siya ng health worker at mas malalim ang kinukuhang specimens para rito,” ang paliwanag ni Vergeire.

Paalala rin ng DOH na ang self-test kits ay available lamang sa mga otorisadong botika at hindi maaaring bilhin online.

“Bumili lamang ng self-administered test kits na aprubado nf FDA o galing po sa mga FDA-licensed drug outlets para lagi po tayong makakasiguro ana ito ay ligtas at lagi po tayong makakaseguro na makakapagbigya ng accurate na resulta,” ani Vergeire.

Paalala rin ng DOH sa publiko na i-check ang expiration date ng self-test kits at itago ang opisyal na resibo ng botikang pinagbilhan nito.

Sa ngayon ay isinasapinal na ng DOH ang guidelines, kaakibat ang evaluation ng Research Institute for Tropical Medicine at FDA hinggil sa COVID-19 self-test kits.

“Ang kagawaran namn po ng kalusugan are on our final stages dito po sa pagssusulat ng polisiya at guidelines kung paano natin gagamitin ito sa mercado,” ani Vergeire.

“Siguro po within the week makakapaglabas na tayo nitong guidelines natin,” dagdag pa niya.

Omicron sub-variant na BA.1 at BA.2 naitala na sa Pilipinas – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Kinumpirma ng Department of Health (DOH) na may napaulat nang kaso ng dalawang sublineage ng Omicron COVID-19 variant sa Pilipinas.

Ang BA.1 at BA.2 ang dalawang sub-variant ng Omicron na unang napaulat sa ibang bansa.

Ayon kay DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, ang BA.2 ang predominant ngayon sa mga kasong naitala sa sampung rehiyon sa bansa batay sa pinakahuling whole genome sequencing run.

Ang BA.1 naman aniya ay nakita sa mga nagpositibo sa COVID-19 sa Bicol Region ay returning overseas Filipinos.

Batay sa limitadong datos ukol sa nasabing sublineage, lumalabas na wala naman itong pagkakaiba sa epekto ng parent variant na Omicron.

“Sa ngayon, kailangan natin maipaalala at tandaan ng ating mga kababayan na walang nakitang significant difference sa clinical presentation ang BA.1 at BA.2,” ani Vergeire.

“Kinakailanga pa rin po ng masusing pagaaral dahil limitado pa rin naman ang mga obserbasyo na ating nakukuha,” dagdag pa niya.

Sa kasalukuyan ay nasa 535 ang kaso ng Omicron sa Pilipinas.

Una nang sinabi ng DOH na maituturing nang predominant variant ang Omicron sa National Capital Region at sa iba pang bahagi ng bansa dahil patuloy pa rin ang mataas na kaso ng COVID-19.


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