MANILA (UPDATE)— Two overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who had been inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines abroad have tested positive for the virus while in the Philippines, a health official said Thursday.
These include a 43-year-old male migrant worker from Mandaue City who had taken two doses of the coronavirus vaccine from China's Sinopharm in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and a 25-year-old female from Canada who had 1 dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, said Department of Health Central Visayas Chief Pathologist and spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche.
Loreche said the balikbayan from UAE arrived in Cebu on Jan. 5 and underwent 14-day quarantine.
“Because he underwent the 14-day quarantine upon arrival, we did not do any swabbing yet,” said Loreche said in a press briefing Thursday on COVID-19 updates in Central Visayas.
But when tested for his return flight to the UAE earlier this month, the OFW was found to be positive. He is asymptomatic.
“But because this particular OFW had to go back to his workplace, he underwent swabbing on Feb 8. Results were released on Feb. 9 turned out to be positive,” she said.
In an earlier interview on TeleRadyo, Loreche explained that getting vaccinated does not mean that the person will never be infected with COVID-19. She said the vaccine helps prevent a patient from developing a more severe illness.
“This is classically manifested by our particular case na hindi naman talaga nagkaroon ng sintomas kahit siya nagpositibo ulit sa SARS-CoV-2,” she said.
(This is classically manifested by our particular case who did not show any symptoms even though he tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.)
Loreche said the OFW received 2 doses of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine: the first was administered on Dec. 12, 2020, and the second dose last Jan. 2, 2021, before he returned to the Philippines.
He infected four other members of his household but they, too, are asymptomatic, she said. They are all under quarantine.
“Ang pinakamahalaga nito sa ngayon ay wala siyang symptoms. 'Yung mga kasambahay niyang nahawa wala din pong sintomas. Pangatlo, lahat po sila asymptomatic, naka-quarantine na,” she said.
(What’s good about it is that the patient showed no symptoms, even the housemates who got infected also showed no symptoms. They are all asymptomatic and under quarantine.)
Loreche said they are now conducting an investigation to determine if the samples from the said OFW will fulfill the criteria for genome sequencing.
The Filipina from Canada, meanwhile, was administered the first dose of the vaccine on Jan. 13 and arrived in Cebu on Feb. 9. She was swabbed on Feb. 14, Day 5 of her quarantine, and the results turned out positive.
She will finish the 14-day quarantine prior to release, said Loreche.
“But we are going to conduct antibody test on the individual so we want to determine the level of immunity that currently she has,” she said.
Loreche added that they are also looking at the effect of the vaccine, whether or not it would result in a more serious case on a person infected by a vaccinated patient.
Dubai OFW has UK variant
Loreche also revealed another case of an OFW from Dubai who tested positive for the UK variant.
The 53-year-old male resident of Talisay City had his PCR test on Jan. 17 in Manila. The results which came out on the 19th turned out positive, and he was quarantined in Tarlac.
“Arrived here on Feb. 7 to Cebu and went home on Feb 8, and this one is positive for UK variant. This individual, this OFW, had completed all the mandatory quarantine in Manila prior to arrival here,” she said.
Despite cases of those getting sick with COVID-19 despite vaccination, Loreche called on the public not to get scared of getting the jabs.
“Ang gusto lang namin ipaalala sa ating kababayan, ‘wag matakot magpabakuna kahit may ganitong kuwento. Mapapansin natin na napakaganda ng epekto dahil hindi nga nagkaroon ng severity ng kaniyang sakit,” she said, referring to the 43-year-old OFW from UAE.
(We want to tell everyone not to be afraid to get vaccinated even with stories like this. We noticed that the results are good since the patient did not develop severe illness.)
Meanwhile, Loreche said health protocols must still be observed like wearing of face masks and face shields, physical distancing and hand washing, even if the person already received the vaccine against COVID-19.