MANILA – Experts are still studying the effect of the COVID-19 Omicron variant on vaccinated populations, a Department of Health official said Tuesday.
“That’s something the (World Health Organization) and other global experts are undertaking right now. Hopefully we’ll have more information as to how large or small an effect this variant will have on vaccine efficacy,” DOH epidemiology bureau head Dr. Alethea de Guzman said.
De Guzman said it may take weeks before the impact of the Omicron variant on vaccine efficacy may be known.
“If we noted ‘no, sa Delta at the start we were all already flagging na baka may epekto, but it really took weeks later para makita natin kung gaano 'yung ibinaba ng ating vaccine efficacy against Delta."
"That is something that we may also see ‘no. It may take a little more time para malaman natin specifically or ma-quantify yung reduction in vaccine efficacy due to Omicron variant,” she said.
De Guzman said it is difficult to make any conclusions for now about the severity of the disease caused by the Omicron variant.
No deaths have been attributed to the Omicron variant so far.
“It’s difficult to make any conclusions right now but what the evidence says, based on what is available right now, hindi natin nakikita that this variant is presenting differently from any other variants,” she said.
“It will most likely still present with the usual signs and symptoms, so fever, and respiratory signs and symptoms.”
“Second, a lot of concern is about how this affects the children and there is no evidence as of now na there’s a specific age group na mas at risk, either for getting infected, or getting more severe disease than any other age groups,” she added.
“And the last is the concern na, will this lead to more hospitalization or even more severe and critical disease?”
“And the evidence right now suggests that there is no--it doesn’t really cause us to get more hospitalized, there’s no increased risk for hospitalization, nor is there any increased risk na mas malala yung magiging sakit po natin kung magkaroon po tayo ng Omicron variant,” she said.
De Guzman said the travel bans put in place by the Philippine government will help stop the entry of the new omicron variant in the country.
She stressed, however, that Filipinos should get vaccinated while the variant remains undetected in the country.
“If ever there is an effect on the vaccine efficacy, our experts are seeing that it is still effective ’no, para sa symptomatic disease, severe and critical subalit baka mas mababa nang konti ano.”
“Kaya naman napakahalaga that while it is not here in the Philippines we get ourselves fully vaccinated as soon as possible to get that protection,” she said.
Dr. Nina Gloriani, who heads the Department of Science and Technology’s vaccine expert panel, shared a similar view.
“Hindi naman natin ine-expect na--maaaring mabawasan ‘no, kagaya ng nangyari doon sa Alpha, Beta, Gamma ‘no at yung Delta,” she said, when asked if the world has reached a point where existing vaccines are no longer effective against new novel coronavirus variants.
“So kasi, ang atin namang immune system, meron pang ibang mas--bukod doon sa antibodies, meron tayo nung T-cells. 'Yung T-cells hindi masyadong naapektuhan ng mutations. Medyo iba ang kanyang mechanism of action so medyo doon tayo siguro magre-rely na sana 'yun ang maging protection na mas ma-predominant kaysa doon sa antibodies kung ganoon ang mangyayari,” she said.
Gloriani also encouraged Filipinos to get vaccinated, and even take advantage of the government’s three-day national vaccination drive.
“Malinaw na malinaw 'yan. Tumulong tayo na tumaas ang ating immunization coverage,” Gloriani said.
“Sana po ay mahikayat na ang lahat. Eto na, bakunation day, hanggang bukas, pero of course, the rest of--sa iba pang araw, may bakuna day pa. Ngayon lang 'yung bugso na gusto natin.”
“Magapabakuna na po lalo na 'yung wala pa ni isa. Tapos po 'yung magpapa-booster makakatulong po 'yang booster. Talagang tumataas eh. So 'yun po ang tingnan natin. Pleading na po 'yan.”