MANILA— The Department of Health on Friday warned the public against complacency and purposefully getting infected with COVID-19 to achieve natural immunity following an expert's remark that it may act as a "natural vaccine."
More virus transmissions can lead to more mutations, according to Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.
"'Wag po tayo maging complacent, magpapahawa dahil sa statement na ganito, hindi po ganyan ang direksyon ng ating response dito. Kailangan nating pigilang dumami pa ang impeksyon para mapigilan po natin ang pag-produce ng mas maraming variants," she said in a virtual public briefing."
(Let's not be complacent and get infected because of this claim, this is not the direction of our COVID response. We need to prevent more infections in order to avoid producing more variants.)
"Kailangan pigilan po natin ang ganito karaming impeksyon para di magkaroon ng further mutations ng virus na ito which can lead to more fatal outcomes."
(We need to stop this many infections so there won't be further mutations which which can lead to more fatal outcomes.)
A portion of the population have also not been fully vaccinated, said Dr. Edsel Salvana, member of the DOH technical advisory group.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated some 51.7 million individuals, while 57.4 million have received an initial dose and 2.8 million have received booster shots as of Thursday, according to the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC).
"Meron pa po tayong mga kababayan na di bakunado, pwede pa rin po silang tamaan although it is less when somebody is vaccinated," Salvana said.
(There are still people who are unvaccinated, they can still get infected.)
"If there is one thing constant about COVID-19 it is that it has surprised us time and again."
The studies being cited by experts were conducted on individuals with the omicron variant who had antibodies against the delta variant, said Dr. Anna Ong Lim, also a member of DOH-TAG.
"Walang definitive truth na sa ibang variant of concern ganun din ang inaasahan nating makita," she said.
(There's no definitive truth it will be the same for other variants of concern.)
"Ang problema kasi natin itong COVID maya't-maya na lang ginugulat tayo... 'Wag sadyaing magpahawa on the assumption na hindi na tayo mahahawa ng iba pa."
(Our problem with COVID is it continues to surprise us...Let's not get infected intentionally on the assumption we won't get infected by other variants.)
Molecular biologist and Catholic priest Fr. Nicanor Austriaco earlier said the omicron variant “is a good sign that we are at the beginning of the end.”
“It is, for the first time, a weaker variant,” he said during a televised public briefing.
Austriaco said some US scientists believe “that a milder variant of COVID-19 will better prepare the population for future variants.”
He also noted the increasing numbers of vaccinations and booster shots, the availability of antivirals, and the ongoing development of a pancoronavirus vaccine that will be effective against all COVID-19 variants.
“With all these developments, I really do believe that we are at the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” said Austriaco, a fellow of the OCTA Research group.
He also noted that during the 1918 flu pandemic, 2 variants emerged, one of which was weaker than the other.
Quoting a paper published on the Journal of Infectious Diseases, he said, “If someone got sick with the milder variant, it protected them against the more severe variant later that year.”
But he noted that there was no flu vaccine then.
“We have vaccines now, which is why I think it’s so important to tell your viewers and our listeners po that even though omicron could help sustain population immunity, omicron, even though it is milder than delta, it is still a killer po,” Austriaco said.
“It’s important that every single one of our kababayan still get vaccinated and boosted because it might help the country as a whole, it might be a blessing in disguise at the end of this surge, that we replace a deadly variant like delta with omicron, but for individual people, it will still kill,” he added.