PH must treat COVID-19 Lambda variant like Delta: expert

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2021 10:32 AM | Updated as of Aug 16 2021 12:03 PM

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MANILA - The Philippines must treat the COVID-19 Lambda variant like the Delta as it might also have higher transmissibility, an infectious disease expert said Monday.

The Lambda variant has a similar mutation in the spike protein such as those seen in other variants of concern, said Dr. Rontgene Solante, head of adult infectious diseases at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

It is causing the virus surge in Latin American nations Peru, Argentina, and Chile, according to Solante, citing Japanese scientists.

"There is a possibility that the transmissibility will be the same as that of the Delta variant... We know that the Delta can multiply faster, has more viral load. And if this Lambda variant can behave as such, then we have another variant that can be a driver or a possible cause of surge of cases," he told ANC's Headstart.

"Yes, we have to protect ourselves. We need to treat this something like Delta. We need to enhance our vaccination rollout, protect ourselves, and always comply with health protocol," he added when asked if the variant should be a cause for worry.

There is also a finding that the Lambda variant can possibly reduce the effectivity of vaccines but no data is available yet, Solante said.

The Philippines has recorded its first case of the Lambda variant in a 35-year-old female patient, who tested positive in July and has since recovered, according to the Department of Health.

COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against variants of concern such as the Delta variant, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Booster shots may be recommended only for those who may develop severe infection, said Solante, who also serves as a member of the government's vaccine expert panel.

"Yes, we can have the booster. And based on the context also that our vaccine supply is limited, if we’re going to recommend a booster, then it’s probably not for the general public," he said.

At least 12 million individuals in the country have so far been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while over 14.1 million first doses have been administered, as of August 11, government said.