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Gov’t ‘sabotaging own efforts’ with vax drive during lockdown – doctor

/ 04:56 AM August 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A health expert on Tuesday slammed the government’s drive to ramp up vaccination while imposing a lockdown in the capital region, saying it was “sabotaging its own efforts to curb the current outbreak [of COVID-19 cases].”

Dr. Rafael Castillo, dean emeritus and lead faculty for research of the Fame Leaders’ Academy, said in a statement that even as Metro Manila and other “hotbed areas”

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were under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), “we’re conducting mass vaccinations in a not too well organized manner, with hundreds and thousands congregating, making these vaccination centers superspreader venues.”

According to Castillo, who also writes a column for the Inquirer, “three patients who consulted us in the last two weeks developed COVID-19 symptoms within several days after their jabs and were confirmed positive by nasopharyngeal swab.”

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“There is a high likelihood they got the virus when they queued for their vaccination,” he said.

Castillo said that “since March, we’ve been proposing that we should suspend mass vaccination in hotbed areas and limit it only to the elderly and vulnerable or immunocompromised individuals.”

“Continuing with mass vaccination during an outbreak is like trying to stop a fire, while at the same time, fueling it with more piles of wood. That makes the fire bigger,” he warned further.

Castillo also cited the “dilemma” presented by the OCTA Research Group as to “why the current surge still continues despite the ECQ lockdown.”

“The lockdown is not working because we’re neutralizing its impact with the mass vaccinations, which we’re even escalating even in areas with unbridled outbreaks,” he said.

“We hate to keep on saying it—but our pandemic managers seem to have a propensity for incoherent, sometimes contradicting approaches in solving the pandemic,” Castillo said.

Face masks for kids?

Even amid the government’s restrictions against minors stepping out of their homes, the Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday said it did not recommend the wearing of face masks for children younger than 2 years old.

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Children who find it hard to breathe while wearing a mask should avoid it as well, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a briefing in Malacañang where she presented the DOH’s guidelines for the pediatric population.

A mask is also not recommended for children with cognitive or respiratory impairments and for those who are at risk of choking or strangulation if they wear one, she said.

But the DOH recommends that children 2 years old and older wear face masks when outside their homes, she said.

However, if these children can’t tolerate masks, “[t]he alternative is to make the children wear face shields if they would go out for medical reasons,” Vergeire said.

In May, President Duterte ordered the arrest of individuals not wearing or improperly wearing face masks.

Virus case update

The DOH reported 10,035 new COVID-19 infections in Tuesday’s case bulletin, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 1,765,675.

Case counts are “relatively low” at the start of the week, the department said, because of the lower laboratory output during weekends, with only 38,243 tests conducted on Sunday.

But there had been a marked increase in new cases over the last weekend, from the 13,177 recorded on Friday to the 14,749 on Sunday. These figures came close to the 15,310 cases on April 2 when the country logged its most infectious day.

Tuesday’s bulletin had 105,787 active cases, of which the majority or 96.1 percent are mild, 0.9 percent are asymptomatic, 0.9 percent are moderate, 0.7 percent are critical and 1.3 percent are severe.

The positivity rate remained high at 22.2 percent, which meant that one in five tested for COVID-19 turned out positive.

The DOH said 10,858 had recovered from the respiratory illness, bringing the total number of survivors to 1,629,426. However, another 96 have died, pushing the total fatalities to 30,462.

Of the country’s total hospital beds, currently occupied are 71 percent of 4,000 ICU (intensive care unit) beds, 65 percent of 13,800 COVID-19 ward beds, and 59 percent of 20,300 isolation beds.

The department said 52 percent of all mechanical ventilators in the country are currently utilized.

Six laboratories failed to submit their data on time, while 206 duplicates were removed from the total case count. Meanwhile, 39 cases previously tagged as recoveries were reclassified as deaths following final validation.

—REPORTS FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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