No more masks for the fully vaccinated? Not so fast, says health expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 30 2021 08:54 AM

MANILA - An infectious disease expert on Friday said fully vaccinated people in the Philippines must still wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly since there is still the presence of variants of the virus.

"As of this time, ang recommendation natin, ang DOH (Department of Health) at ilang medical society dito sa ating bansa even if you got the full doses of the vaccines ang recommendation is still to practice yung minimum public health measures, and included po dyan ang paggamit ng mask. Meron pa ring variant why we can’t afford na we will not wear masks even if were vaccinated already,” Dr. Eva Roxas told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

US President Joe Biden earlier announced Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to mask up outdoors when there is no crowd. The CDC added the newly relaxed guidance only applies to people who have had their full vaccine doses and are two weeks past the final shot.

Roxas said the coverage of the COVID-19 vaccination in the Philippines is still low compared to that in the US.

“Unlike sa US, dito sa Pilipinas alam po natin hindi pa ganun karami ang nababakunahan so yung coverage po is not that as much of sa US, and then, ang mga bakuna kasi na unang dumating sa atin dito, nung una wala pa talagang studies na ang bakunan na ito ay may transmission blocking capacity o nakakapigil ng pag transmit. Ang benefit ng mga bakunang unang dumating sa atin is to prevent the severe form of COVID1-19,” she said.

In the US, masks are still required if they are at concerts or parades and even when in movie theaters and indoor shopping centers.

Aside from US, Israel also rescinded its order to wear face mask outdoors. But the requirement is applied for indoor public spaces.

The Philippines has so far administered 1.7 million doses of coronavirus jabs. It aims to vaccinate 70 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity.

“70 percent of our population, medyo malayo-layo pa po sa current status natin so we still have to practice itong pag wear ng face mask sa ngayon,” she said.

Roxas said that based on studies, a good quality mask when worn properly effectively prevents the transmission of not just the COVID-19 but other respiratory infections.

“Sa community po, ang nire-recommend 'yung usual cloth mask. Napag-aralan it can be sufficient pero sa ibang setting for example sa amin, mga healthcare workers na nasa ospital at nagte-take care ng COVID-19 confirmed patients, hindi po sasapat ang cloth mask so we have to wear different kinds of mask—N95 o mas mataas pa doon,” she said.

Cloth mask should be washed and Roxas recommends bringing an extra when outdoors. Surgical or medical masks on the other hand, are supposed to be disposable, she said.

"Sa healthcare facility po once you use it dapat tanggalin pero pag mga N95 supposed to be dapat 8 hours lang yan sa isang shift pero ngayon since nasa pandemya tayo allow ang reuse ng N95 also there are some processes where in we can decontaminate it and reuse it,” she added.

Several products, including air purifier necklaces, are now out in the market. But Roxas said there is still no study to confirm if air purifiers prevent the transmission of the virus.

“Sa ngayon wala pong evidence na ito po ay effective way of preventing the transmission of virus,” she said.