Vax faster: IATF adviser sees early signals of COVID surge

David Dizon, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 30 2022 08:44 AM | Updated as of May 30 2022 08:57 AM

San Juan City rolls out its second booster shots against COVID-19 for senior citizens and medical frontliners at the Vmall Greenhills vaccination site on May 20, 2022.  The Philippine Medical Association recently urged those eligible for a third or fourth vaccine dose to get it after a more transmissible omicron subvariant was detected in the country, according to its president Dr. Benito Atienza. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News
San Juan City rolls out its second booster shots against COVID-19 for senior citizens and medical frontliners at the Vmall Greenhills vaccination site on May 20, 2022.  The Philippine Medical Association recently urged those eligible for a third or fourth vaccine dose to get it after a more transmissible omicron subvariant was detected in the country, according to its president Dr. Benito Atienza. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News

The Philippines must pick up the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations amid early signals of another COVID surge, a member of the inter-agency task force technical working group said Monday. 

Dr John Wong, founder of Epimetrics and a member of the IATF technical working group for data analytics, said the Philippines has seen two instances of COVID-19 case increases since May 18 but noted that the increases are not sustained but drop off after 3 days. 

"If we look back longer to let's say, February, the end of the omicron wave, we had decreasing cases. The increasing number of cases in the past month is worrying because it is showing that more transmission is taking place," he said in an ANC Rundown interview. 

He noted that the current COVID case numbers are underestimates since some people may be doing home antigen tests but not reporting while some who feel mild COVID symptoms may not be testing at all. 

The Philippines recorded 200 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, with 82 new infections from Metro Manila. The number of active cases is 2,434. 

Data from the Department of Health showed the number of deaths at 60,455, with no new death recorded Sunday. The total recoveries also reached 3,627,365.

ABS-CBN Data Analytics Team head Edson Guido said the positivity rate for the week of May 22 to 28 is 1.2 percent, slightly higher than the 1.1 percent recorded the previous week. 

The DOH earlier announced the detection of the highly transmissible omicron BA.4 subvariant from a Filipino who traveled from the Middle East earlier in May. 

Some 70 million or 78.61 percent of the target 90 million people in the country have been fully vaccinated against the respiratory disease. Of those who received their primary series, 14 million have received their booster shots.

In the interview, Wong said the government needs to pick up the pace of COVID vaccinations after slowing down starting February. 

"What do we need to do? For government, we need to speed up pace of vaccination. Since February, we've only increased by 6 percent the vaccination rate. Only about 20 percent of eligible adults have boosters and only 10 percent of children have had their vaccinations," he said.

He stressed the need to protect the elderly and persons with comorbidities, adding that 70 percent of COVID deaths are among the elderly. 

He also reminded the public to maintain social distancing, noting that Google mobility trends show an increase in mobility among Filipinos.

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