MANILA—The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday reiterated the urgency for senior citizens (A2) and persons with comorbidities (A3) to avail themselves of booster shots against the coronavirus that is evolving into more contagious variants.
Dr. Divine Agustin, DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau-Evidence Generation and Management Section officer-in-charge, said that these two groups remain most vulnerable to increased risk of hospitalization and death.
Agustin said through time, the body’s immune response naturally decreases the creation of antibodies.
“ We need to increase it [immune response] again to have a protection against severe Covid-19 leading to hospitalizations and deaths,” she said during the annual convention of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) at Edsa Shangri-La in Mandaluyong City.
The DOH noted that among those with comorbidities, 59.2 percent are yet to be boosted.
“For A2, that’s just 33 percent and they really need the booster, so we are really falling short for the senior citizens group, and for the A3, 40.8 percent have their first boosters already,” Agustin added.
She also urged the public to take advantage of the government’s Covid vaccine program despite the lifting of the global public health emergency for Covid-19.
“Very accessible po ang bakuna. Free pa po siya. So take that opportunity to be vaccinated. Kasi baka after some time, by purchase na po siya,” Agustin said.
Meanwhile, the DOH said about 43 percent of recorded deaths due to Covid-19 are unvaccinated, emphasizing the crucial role of vaccination in preventing the disease.
As of March 15, the DOH has logged 66,453 Covid-19 fatalities out of the 4,116,925 total cases nationwide since January 2020.
“If we look at our analysis, 43 percent of deaths of Covid-19 are from those unvaccinated individuals, so, we can see here the importance of vaccination against Covid-19,” said DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a media forum.
She added that the daily average of Covid-19 cases showed a 28-percent increase from May 9 to 15 with 1,798 cases logged per day compared to the 1,400 infections per day reported from May 2 to 8.
The national positivity rate is 23.5 percent, higher than last week’s 20 percent.
More than 78.4 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, including 7.2 million senior citizens, 10.2 million adolescents, and 5.6 million children as of March 20, 2023.
More than 23.8 million individuals have received their first booster dose and almost 4.4 million have received their second booster shots.
Vergeire confirmed the local transmission of the Omicron XBB.1.16 or Arcturus subvariant. This, after the recent genome sequencing revealed three additional cases of the subvariant in Western Visayas.
The first case was detected last month in Iloilo province.
“We think, based on what we’re seeing, that there is already no linkage to any of these cases that we have been identifying, that there is already a local transmission of this Arcturus just like any of the different subvariants or the Omicron variant in the country,” she said.
On the other hand, Vergeire said the public has nothing to fear about local transmission because they can always protect themselves by observing health protocols such as wearing face masks, getting vaccinated and receiving their booster doses. PNA
Image credits: PNA