MANILA - The public should still get vaccinated despite initial studies that the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 can evade immunity from the shots, an infections disease expert said Thursday.
Dr. Rontgene Solante, head of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine unit of the San Lazaro Hospital, said the unvaccinated become a "reservoir" for mutation because they do not have enough antibodies.
"Being in that body longer, they will be able to adapt by mutating so that they can be there in the body longer, and this is where mutations can occur," he told ANC's Headstart.
"This is where people that are not vaccinated, who are immunocompromised, they will be the reservoir of these viruses. Chances are they will be the one source of this infection and at the same time, they can also be at high risk of getting the more severe infection," he said.
Solante, also a member of the government's vaccine expert panel, said in general, vaccines work and that's why everyone who can get the jab should get it.
"That’s the importance why we need to vaccinate everyone, especially for those unvaccinated because mutation will only occur among those that are unvaccinated, among those that are immunocompromised. So we need protection for these populations so that there will be less mutation and less transmission of this COVID virus," he said.
He also emphasized that protecting a bigger number of the population from severe infection as promised by the vaccines means less hospitalization and less intensive care unit utilization.
Preliminary evidence shared by the World Health Organization suggested that Omicron, which had considerable mutations from the original strain, is highly transmissible and could dodge some antibodies.
However, there are also initial studies that say its symptoms seemed to be milder than the Delta variant. Solante said this may be true especially for those who are already vaccinated.
The Philippines has 4 recorded cases of the variant. While community transmission of omicron has yet to be confirmed, the Philippines is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.
DOH on Wednesday reported 889 cases, its highest number of new infections in over a month, bringing Philippines total number of cases to 2,839,790.