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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Experts push boosters vs. ‘Centaurus’ variant

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COVID-19 booster doses could be effective in fighting off the BA.2.75 subvariant, a member of the Advisory Council of Experts said Thursday.

An infectious diseases specialist said Wednesday that it is only a matter of time before the subvariant, nicknamed “Centaurus,” will enter the Philippines.

“So far, experts are seeing that booster doses can help fend off this more transmissible subvariant, because boosters expand, broaden a person’s immune response, like it boosts antibodies that can fight off variants,” said Advisory Council of Experts member Dr. Nina Gloriani, speaking in Filipino.

“In fact, other countries are rushing the jabbing of the second booster to help beat the new subvariant,” she said.

Gloriani said her group has recommended the giving of second COVID-19 boosters to more Filipinos. At present, only elderly Filipinos, the immunocompromised, and health workers are eligible for the jab.

“We have said that those 50 years old and below can already receive the booster shot since a lot in that age group already have co-morbidities,” she said.

Gloriani said, however, that it is the Health Technology Assessment Council of the Department of Health (DOH) that makes the final decisions on matters like these.

The BA.2.75 subvariant first emerged in India in May and has since spread to around the United States, Britain, Germany, Australia, and several other countries.

The World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said last week that the UN agency was closely tracking the strain, but there were “limited sequences to analyze.”

“This sub-variant seems to have a few mutations on the receptor binding domain of the spike protein… so we have to watch that,” she said in a tweeted video.

She added that it was “too early to know” how well the strain can evade immunity or how severe it was.

The Netherlands announced on Wednesday it has become the latest country to detect a case of the Covid Omicron subvariant BA.2.75, as experts expressed concern about the strain’s rapid spread.

It “has also now been identified in the Netherlands,” the Dutch National Institute of Public Health said in a statement.
“Little is known about BA.2.75,” the institute said, but it “appears to more easily bypass the defenses built up against SARS-CoV-2 through small, specific changes.”

Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, said BA.2.75’s spread in India indicated it could be more transmissible than the BA.5 Omicron subvariant, which has been driving waves in Europe and the US.

“It seems to be becoming the dominant strain in India — the question is will it become the dominant strain all over the world?”

Flahault added that previous dominant strains, like Delta, had first taken over the country they emerged in before spreading across the world.

But he said there was a “margin of unpredictability,” pointing to how BA.2.12.1 became dominant in the US but BA.5 “succeeded” when the two came in direct competition.

Flahault added that successive variants made developing a vaccine to fight them more difficult, because by the time one jab targeting them was ready to be rolled out, newer strains had taken over.

It was far too early to know about the severity of BA.2.75, he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday recorded 2,828 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the nationwide total to 3,741,987.

The country’s active case count jumped to 22,207 from 20,678 on Wednesday.

The National Capital Region registered 10,636 new cases in the last two weeks, followed by Calabarzon with 6,167, Central Luzon with 2,821, Western Visayas with 2,232, and Central Visayas with 1,101.

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