WHO urges house-to-house vaccination to avoid COVID surge

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2022 12:57 PM | Updated as of Apr 18 2022 02:58 PM

Passengers flock to a bus station along EDSA in Cubao, Quezon City on April 13, 2022. Thousands of Filipinos are expected to go home to their respective provinces for the long holiday break as the country observes the Holy Week. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Passengers flock to a bus station along EDSA in Cubao, Quezon City on April 13, 2022. Thousands of Filipinos are expected to go home to their respective provinces for the long holiday break as the country observes the Holy Week. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines must focus on COVID-19 vaccination to avoid a surge as COVID-19 restrictions ease and the public's mobility increases, the World Health Organization said Monday.

Many barangays have yet to reach 70 percent vaccination coverage, according to WHO representative Rajendra Yadav.

Local chief executives must reach barangays with low vaccine coverage through "last mile approach" or house-to-house or close-to-home vaccination, Yadav said.

"Whether this social mixing and increased mobility during Easter will increase cases or not depends on whether people wore masks, avoided crowds and (gathered in) fully-ventilated places," he said in a televised press briefing.

"We should not rely on number of cases to know whether we have too much COVID or not. Rather we need to focus on increasing our vaccination. Whether the numbers will increase or not, only time will tell. We should not focus too much on the numbers of cases rather the number of people vaccinated."

It is possible for the Philippines to tally up to 300,000 active cases should the public relax adherence to health protocols, Yadav said.

"We have to prove those numbers wrong that's the challenge we face. If we relax our guards, our defenses then yes it’s possible to go to those numbers," he said.

"In South Korea, which has half of the population of Philippines, already has 600,000 cases per day. The good thing is Filipinos are one of the best in wearing masks. There was some decline recently in mask-wearing--that should not happen and we have to cover our people with vaccines."

The WHO prefers to use the term "up-to-date with recommended schedules" instead of full vaccination, Yadav said when asked about redefining its meaning.

"Fully vaccinated is a big term because definitely it may change depending on evolving evidence. It’s better to use up-to-date with the recommended schedules," he said.

Omicron variants

The public must observe precautions against omicron, regardless of its subvariant, as it is more transmissible than the original lineage of COVID-19, Yadav said.

"We don't know whether it will change immunology or severity picture of the world yet. Irrespective of what variant, omicron is already so many times more infectious than the original variant of COVID-19 so we have to treat all these variants with equal precautions and equally intense actions," he said.

"We have to keep vaccinating and masking."

Reaching endemicity with COVID-19 is "not a great picture," Yadav added.

"Endemic is not a great picture because many diseases are endemic like tuberculosis is endemic and it kills millions of people. Rather we have to aim for sustained suppression of COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

"We have to have enough resources to manage any surges. We have to prevent deaths and suffering. We have to avoid it becoming endemic. Even malaria for example is endemic in some countries and it kills millions too."

A total of 12.6 million out of 50.1 million individuals eligible for a booster shot have received it, according to the Department of Health. Some 37.6 million more are due for an additional jab, it said.

The Food and Drug Administration last week approved a second booster shot for the elderly, immunocompromised, and healthworkers.

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Video courtesy of PTV