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DOH: Get vax booster amid COVID uptick

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A Department of Health (DOH) official said Tuesday more Filipinos must get their COVID-19 booster doses amid an uptick of cases in the country.

The Philippines recorded 3,148 COVID-19 cases in the past week. From April 17 to 23, an average of 450 daily infections were logged in the country, which is 32 percent higher compared to the previous week, according to DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Dr. Alethea De Guzman.

“We need more boosters for our targeted population–among senior citizens, only 82 percent are fully vaccinated, and only 30 percent of our target population have received boosters,” De Guzman told TeleRadyo as she attributed the increase in cases to additional mobility.

In related developments:

* People eligible to receive the second COVID-19 booster dose were called on by a medical professional to take the jab amid the reported rise in COVID infections.

In a public briefing Tuesday, Dr. Benito Atienza, Philippine Federation of Professional Association Vice President III, stressed the importance of getting the additional booster dose at least six months after the first dose to improve the body’s resistance against COVID-19.

“It’s for our protection because we know that after a few months, the ‘fighter’ in our vaccine decreases, thus a booster shot is needed. The booster shot would increase the level of our immunity against the disease,” he said.

De Guzman noted the omicron subvariant was still the most predominant COVID variant in the Philippines.

* The COVID-19 positivity rate in Metro Manila increased beyond 10 percent on Sunday, data by independent monitoring group OCTA Research showed on Tuesday.

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David said the percentage of people found positive for COVID-19 in the National Capital Region among the total number of individuals tested jumped from 7.3 percent on April 16, to 10.6 percent as of April 23.

Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, reiterated that there are a lot of factors affecting the positivity rate, thus it should not be the sole basis of the COVID-19 situation in the country.

“As compared to before, only a few people now get themselves tested. We may get biased towards people who really have symptoms and get tested, if we only look at those who are getting tested,” Vergeire said.

* The Philippines has confirmed its first case of omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, which is spreading around the world, according to the Department of Health.

Based on the agency’s latest COVID-19 biosurveillance report, the case of XBB.1.16 was detected in Western Visayas.

Dubbed “Arcturus” on social media, the new COVID-19 offshoot is a descendant lineage of XBB, a recombinant of two BA.2 descendent lineages.

The World Health Organization designated the XBB.1.16 as variant of interest or VOI last week following a sustained increase in its prevalence.

So far, the XBB.1.16 has been reported in 33 countries and has been mostly documented in India.

* The Philippines was known to have the longest and strictest lockdown in the world, as the previous administration employed a militaristic method instead of a health-centric approach to our COVID-19 response, said Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

In her speech before the Global Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development in Tokyo, Japan, Hontiveros noted that the consequences of the long lockdown were most felt by the most vulnerable among us, especially our women and children.

The event was organized by the Asian Population and Development Association, the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development Japan, the Parliamentarians Federation for Population, and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Japan Trust Fund. “Cases may have risen because number 1, the Lenten season just finished and a lot of people went out. We see each other more often, and we are more mobile,” De Guzman said.

Hontiveros also detailed the forms of gender-based violence, from incidents of sex-for-pass in checkpoints to cases of online sexual exploitation of children on social media, that were prevalent in the Philippines, primarily brought about by the health and economic crisis.

The DOH has signed a set of guidelines for the use of a second COVID-19 booster to the general population.

Those eligible to receive the fourth jab include anyone over 18, pregnant and lactating women, and immunocompromised individuals.

* The Department of Health Centers for Health Development said healthy adults aged 18 and above are now allowed to receive the second COVID-19 booster shot at local government units.

DOH’s latest data showed at least 78.4 million Filipinos were already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 23.8 million individuals have received their first booster shots.

Atienza, who is also a pediatrician, also recommended refraining children from entering crowded places, and the continued wearing of face masks especially in indoor areas.

Twenty-six areas have been placed under Alert Level 2 from April 15 to 30, 2023, according to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Sunday.

Under Alert Level 2, certain establishments and activities are allowed at 50 percent capacity indoors for fully vaccinated adults (and minors, even if unvaccinated), and 70 percent capacity outdoors.

Vergeire stressed that people should not be afraid and panic despite the changes in positivity rate, so long as they know how to protect themselves against COVID-19 through masking and getting vaccinated and boosted.

“It would be unfair for our local governments and our other sectors if we declare now that we are at high risk, and make people panic just because we based our analysis on our positivity rate,” she said.


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