Physician underscores ‘booster’ key to weather COVID storm

July 11, 2022 - 6:47 PM
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Filipinos queue for a booster dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine amid rising infections, in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines, January 5, 2022. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

A physician emphasized the need for COVID-19 boosters as infections continue to spike in the country.

Physician Minguita Padilla on Sunday tweeted that the country’s hospitals “are now seeing some severe COVID cases presenting Delta-like symptoms even if supposed to be Omicron.” There are no data on these severe cases as of writing.

Omicron is the dominant COVID-19 variant in the Philippines since it saw a surge early this year.

Delta, meanwhile, started to become dominant in August 2021.

Omicron is less severe than Delta, with experts saying that its risk of hospitalization and ICU admissions are 40-80% lower than the latter.

But Delta exhausted the country’s health system last year, with non-medical facilities being turned into COVID-19 wards to accommodate the number of patients who needed treatment.

Padilla tweeted that those who have exhibited “Delta-like symptoms” were patients at high-risk who have not yet been boosted.

“Pls. get boosted. It’s important (especially) for high-risk persons, so we can weather COVID storm,” she added.

Padilla’s tweet has earned almost 1,400 likes as of this writing.

The post also prompted some to comment about a second booster, or a fourth COVID-19 shot.

“A lot of people already want to get that booster but still waiting for (the) general population’s turn to open for them,” a Twitter user wrote in response to Padilla.

As of now, the government is only allowing healthcare workers, the seniors and the immunocompromised to get their fourth dose.

Those with comorbidities and the rest of Filipinos are still not yet advised to get theirs.

Rep. Janette Garin (Iloilo, First District), a former health secretary, has urged the government to provide the general public with their second booster shot.

The Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) said that the World Health Organization has not yet recommended second booster shots for healthy younger populations.

The HTAC is an independent advisory body of the health department.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire echoed this in an interview where she said there is still insufficient evidence that a second booster will benefit the general population.

Meanwhile, for infectious disease expert Rontgene Solante, booster doses for the third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine should already be mandatory amid the rising cases.

He said that the Philippines ranks low in terms of booster uptake compared to some countries in Southeast Asia like Thailand and Malaysia.

As of June, the country has reached 20% of its target population for booster administration.

Solante said that other Southeast Asian countries have already reached the 50% threshold.

More than 71 million Filipinos have received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, but only 15.34 million have gotten boosters.

Higher numbers

As of Sunday, the country has recorded more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 “in nearly five months,” according to ABS-CBN data analyst Edson Guido.

The OCTA Research also noted that the positivity rate in densely-populated Metro Manila has climbed from 8.3% to 10.9%.

This meant that one in every ten tests conducted in the capital region yielded positive results.

Moreover, the Department of Health said there was a 39% increase in daily COVID-19 cases from July 4 to 10.

Despite this, the agency said that healthcare utilization rates remain low, with only 17% of the 2,414 ICU beds occupied.

Authorities say that the presence of Omicron subvariants, which are more contagious than its original variant, are driving the increase in cases.

Other factors include increased mobility among the public and waning vaccine immunity.