DOH: COVID-19 vaccines remain effective vs cases caused by variants

Following the detection of the BQ.1 subvariant in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Saturday that COVID-19 vaccines continued to be effective against severe cases caused by detected variants.

DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated the department’s appeal to the public to get vaccinated and boosted to prevent severe and critical cases, and the spread of the viral disease.

“As of now, all our vaccines continue to be effective against severe cases caused by detected variants. This is why we continue to appeal to our kababayans to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 on top of other layers of protection, to minimize transmission and in effect, the emergence of new variants,” Vergeire said in a statement.

Vergeire said that the country’s healthcare utilization rate remained at “low risk,” adding that preparatory activities have been initiated in case there was an increase in the healthcare utilization rates.

The DOH OIC also highlighted the importance of strengthening local and international surveillance and data-sharing systems to ensure that “the natural emergence of variants is always captured, studied, and used to update COVID-19 vaccines.”

“The science of COVID-19 is evolving. Araw-araw may bagong datos na inaaral ang mga eksperto. Despite this, what is clear to us is that our layers of protection continue to be effective against COVID-19 and its variants,” Vergeire said.

“Particularly for vaccines, the challenge is ensuring that they remain effective against these emerging variants. This is why it is crucial that we continue bolstering our surveillance systems and participating in global surveillance data-sharing initiatives and platforms, like GISAID, because this data is what vaccine manufacturers study and use to update vaccines, ensuring that we are always a step ahead,” she added.

She said that new variants will naturally emerge with continued transmission and that limiting the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring updated protection through vaccination is the definitive way to prevent this emergence.

“We have to start demystifying variants. Viruses naturally mutate with continued transmission–this is a natural occurrence,” Vergeire said.

“Alam din natin at ng ating mga eksperto iyan, kaya ang mas importante talaga ay pigilan ang pagpasa ng virus para maiwasan ang pag-mutate nito, at lalong importante na laging handa ang ating healthcare system to respond to these emerging variants,” she added.

The DOH on Friday, citing results of the latest genome sequencing, said Omicron BQ.1, a sublineage of the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant, has been detected in the Philippines.

At least 14 cases of BQ.1 have been detected based on the latest genome sequencing of UP-Philippine Genome Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and San Lazaro Hospital from October 28 to November 18.

Vergeire said BQ.1 is “more transmissible and highly immune evasive” compared to other Omicron subvariants. — DVM, GMA Integrated News


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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