MANILA - The head of United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Southeast Asia has stressed the importance of COVID-19 vaccination amid the rise of infections in the Asian region, noting how it could rein in the pandemic.
Dr. John MacArthur, CDC Southeast Asia's regional director, said that while the number of cases per population in Southeast Asia is “significantly lower” compared to the global numbers, half the countries in the region, including the Philippines, are facing a rise in cases.
The country is again battling a growth of new infections driven by the more transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant, which has already stretched many hospitals to the breaking point.
Several health facilities in the capital region and nearby provinces have also announced critical to full capacity due to the continued admission of virus patients.
“The good news is that if you look at cases per population, it is actually significantly lower than the global number. So… what may seem as high in Southeast Asia relative to the global pandemic numbers, they are lower," MacArthur told reporters in a teleconference.
“Half of countries in the region right now are doing better. So they are moving in the right direction in terms of pushing the number of cases down and trying to control the disease. I think about half of the countries in the region, including the Philippines, are having a more difficult time right now," he added.
The CDC official also hailed vaccine donations through the COVAX Facility and those initiated by other countries, which he said helped some countries to immunize their people.
"I think that’s an important tool, along with some of the key mitigation (measures) to bring this under control," he said.
MacArthur said that Southeast Asia “did remarkably well” in the early days of the pandemic “for the most part” but with the emergence of the Delta variant, some tools globally were no longer as effective.
“In the early days, Southeast Asia did remarkably well for the most part. There are a few countries that had challenges but [did] remarkably well in the emergence of this virus," according to the regional director.
"I think what we’re seeing now, not only in Southeast Asia, but around the world, is with the emergence of this new strain, the Delta strain, some of the tools that we have been using previously are no longer as effective,” MacArthur said.
An analysis by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group earlier this week showed that active cases in Metro Manila have risen five-fold, even as nearly half of its residents eligible for vaccination were already fully immunized and nearly 80 percent have received a partial dose.
While active infections went down significantly in the 4 months and a half since the government started its inoculation drive in March, new cases continued to rise, which experts said was due to the local presence of the Delta variant.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said the continued rise in active cases could also be driven by the number of unvaccinated people in Metro Manila.
As of Friday, about 38 of every 100 infections last reported around the world were reported from countries in Asia and the Middle East, according to data collated by Reuters.
Reuters said Iran, India, Japan, Malaysia, and Turkey are reporting the most new infections each day in Asia and the Middle East as of Friday, while Indonesia, Iran, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines are reporting the most deaths in the region each day.
The Philippines to date has a total of 1,899,200 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic reached the country, of which almost 132,000 are still active.
On Monday, the health department confirmed 18,332 new COVID-19 infections, the highest daily tally in the country so far.
At least 13.3 million people are fully vaccinated in the country, according to government data.