MANILA – An infectious diseases expert on Tuesday said the country remains to be in a good position in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic emergency.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante, in an interview with ABS-CBN News, said most indicators point to COVID-19 being of low risk.
“Our cases have really been very low for the past several months since January. The use of ICU more or less, we can deal with this if ever the WHO will lift the public health emergency. Definitely we’re in a good place in terms of how we deal with it, even with the variants of concern like omicron. In our country we have some uptick of cases but not enough to disrupt the lives of Filipinos,” he said.
He also said that despite US President Joe Biden declaring an end to the three-year emergency status of COVID-19 in their country, the Philippines continues to be under an emergency status because of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration.
“We are under that WHO mandate. That’s why we are still in that emergency. But in terms of the policies, vaccine procurement and funding has already expired since that state of calamity," he said.
The country’s state of calamity expired in December 2022, which has posed delays to the arrival of bivalent vaccines donated by COVAX.
“The DOH should now incorporate COVID-19 as part of the other infectious diseases program. If you include it in the regular program of prevention and control of other infectious diseases like dengue, HIV and TB then the procurement of vaccines can also be facilitated based on giving vaccines only to the most vulnerable and for those who will really benefit," he said.
The Department of Health has since said it is awaiting the passage of the Center for Disease Control bill which would ensure the country’s preparedness in terms of vaccine and medicine procurement in case another pandemic emerges.
However, Solante sees vaccination as something that can be used to target in protecting the most vulnerable. He said that some countries have also shifted their priorities in giving out the vaccines to those who need them most.
“We can’t afford anymore giving vaccines to the whole population. we know that with this COVID-19 the only population at high risk for developing severe infection are those 60 years old and above and the immunocompromised,” Solante said.