COVID-19 Alert 1? Boost vaccination first, say health experts

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2022 01:25 PM

People stop by to take pictures at the Flower Tunnel installation at the Venice Grand Canal Mall in Taguig City on Feb. 12, 2022. Various decors and Valentine’s themed installations can be found in different malls in Metro Manila as people prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
People stop by to take pictures at the Flower Tunnel installation at the Venice Grand Canal Mall in Taguig City on Feb. 12, 2022. Various decors and Valentine’s themed installations can be found in different malls in Metro Manila as people prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippines should raise vaccination figures before implementing COVID Alert Level 1, at least two health experts said on Monday. 

Around 2.5 million senior citizens and 220,000 people with comorbidities are not yet fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, noted Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje. These two groups face a high risk of developing severe COVID-19, authorities earlier warned. 

"Baka dahan-dahanin muna natin… Baka akala ng mga tao ‘pag nag-Alert Level 1, makalimutan ‘yong mga minimum public health standard," she said in a public briefing, when asked if it was time to loosen curbs in Metro Manila. 

(Perhaps we should take it slow. People might forget the minimum public health standards if we go to Alert Level 1.) 
 
"Kailangan pataasin pa sa NCR is ating booster doses kasi added protection," added Cabotaje, who chairs the National Vaccination Operations Center. 

(We need to raise figures for booster doses in NCR because these will offer added protection.) 

Meanwhile, Philippine Medical Association president Dr. Benito Atienza noted only 69,800 out of 15.8 million children ages 5 to 11 have received one vaccine dose as of Friday. 

"Ang kailangan natin mabakunahan muna lahat," he said in the same briefing, when asked about the potential shift to Alert 1. 

(What we need is to vaccinate everyone first.) 

He said authorities should also exercise caution over calls to scrap the alert level system.

"Hindi natin alam 'yong kalaban, hindi natin alam kung magkakaroon ng new variant," Atienza reasoned. 

(We do not know the enemy, we do not know if there will be new variants.) 

The highly transmissible omicron variant in January drove an uptick in coronavirus infections in the Philippines. Cases have since fallen to around 3,000 a day, while around 60 million of the country's 109 million people have been fully vaccinated.