An alarming development is a report this week that nearly all brands of COVID-19 vaccines have decreased efficacy against the Omicron variant of coronavirus 2019.
Dr. Nina Gloriani, the chairperson of the Vaccine Expert Panel, said the government’s all experts group has yet to discuss the inoculation of the fourth COVID-19 dose – after two jabs and a booster shot – to the general population but she said this is already in their “radar.”
A study was earlier released indicating that Sinovac’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine followed by a booster Pfizer-BioNTech shot showed a lower immune response against the Omicron variant compared with other strains.
“Not only Sinovac but almost all the vaccines that we have right now have lower protection against the Omicron variant,” Gloriani said.
Some vaccines are 30 to 40 percent less effective against Omicron compared to the Delta COVID-19 variant.
Gloriani reiterated the importance of having at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to avoid hospitalization.
A person who is vaccinated with one dose of COVID-19 vaccine could have at most 52 percent protection against hospitalization, she said.
Those who got two doses are 72 percent protected against the critical cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant while those who got their booster shots could have around 90 percent protection.
Gloriani said the “neutralizing antibodies” produced from the inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines are only a first line of protection.
There is another defense mechanism in the body called “T Cells” which is a “cellular-mediated immunity” that protects a person against the severe forms of COVID-19 for a long period of time.
She likewise explained that the idea of vaccination against COVID-19 every three months needed more studies as it was “too soon” to tell if it was necessary.
“We could not decide on this until we get more data because it is also not good to get another dose when you still have a high level of immunity. I am talking about the general population and not those who are immuno-compromised. Because if you still have a high level of antibody, the booster shot will have no effect.” she said.
We also strongly endorse the appeal by authorities to the public not to falsify the COVID-19 vaccination card.
If anyone is caught, that person should get the book.
While Metro Manila is under Alert Level 3, commercial establishments and public transport will require customers and passengers proofs of vaccination together with identification cards before they will be allowed to enter the establishments and conveyances.
Chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said any person or any establishment who or which will falsify the COVID-19 vaccine card shall be prosecuted based on local government ordinances and Section 12 of Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.
Violators will be slapped with a fine of not less than P20,000 but not more than P50,000 or imprisonment of at least two to six months.
Abalos also reminded the people that being non-compliant with the basic protocols such as non-wearing of face masks and not practicing social distancing is punishable.
But that seems easier said than being followed.
If the authorities want strict compliance, they should go beyond their alphabet.
Let the law enforcement agents implement what should be followed – for the sake of public health.
The MMDA is on track in seeking the assistance of the Philippine National Police to impose health protocols and monitor isolation and quarantine facilities to prevent an incident similar to what happened to a returning Filipino from the United States who escaped a quarantined hotel in Makati City and later tested positive for COVID-19.
“We want the help of the police force to strictly monitor these establishments to avoid the repeat of what happened there,” said Abalos.
The Metro Manila Council, composed of the 17 mayors in the National Capital Region, earlier agreed to impose enhanced restrictions on unvaccinated people amid the rising coronavirus cases.
“The advances in public health and the economic gains that have been achieved in the recent months under Alert Level 2 must be sustained and pre-emptive measures must be adopted in order to forestall and immediately address the perceived adverse impact of COVID-19, particularly the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, upon the NCR under said Alert Level 3,” the MMC resolution stated.
“Despite the availability of vaccines, many individuals adamantly opt not to be vaccinated and thus, become more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19 infection which will, in turn, require hospital care thereby unduly burdening the health care system to the detriment of public health,” it added.
Abalos assured that once Metro Manila reverts back to a lower alert level, the restrictions for the unvaccinated will be lifted.
We agree with Abalos that these are just temporary measures while the NCR is under Level 3 for the protection of unvaccinated individuals amid the spiking number of COVID cases in the region.
It is good that the Department of Transportation fully supports the move of the Metro Manila mayors to temporarily prohibit unvaccinated individuals from going outside residences and traveling domestically via land, sea, and air public transport, except for the procurement of essential goods and services.
The same prohibition is applicable to individuals aged 17 and below, senior citizens, pregnant women, and persons with comorbidities.
“We cannot let our guard down. Following the government’s minimum health protocol is for our greater good. We must remain vigilant so we can reverse the uptick of cases in the country,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said. (ai/mtvn)