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Palace: 2nd booster shot meant for waning immunity, not surge

Syringe closeup. STORY: Palace: 2nd booster shot meant for waning immunity, not surge

FILE PHOTO: A syringe is filled with a dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a pop-up community vaccination center at the Gateway World Christian Center in Valley Stream, New York, U.S., February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said the approval of a second COVID-19 booster shot for specific priority groups was not due to the projected surge in active cases next month.

The additional booster dose is the government’s “scientific response to waning immunity” and not because of an anticipated spike in new cases by May, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, presidential spokesperson. said at the Laging Handa briefing.

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The Department of Health (DOH) said last week that the Food and Drug Administration had approved a second booster dose for the three priority groups of healthcare workers, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.

While 66.8 million Filipinos have already been fully vaccinated with two-shot COVID-19 vaccines, only 12.6 million have been administered a booster dose, according to the DOH.

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The number of fully inoculated individuals represents 59.9 percent of the total population and 74 percent of the 90 million that the government aims to fully vaccinate.

During the past week, only 202,154 individuals were added to the fully vaccinated list.

The 12.6 million who have received a booster dose represent 11.3 percent of the total population.

There are still 37.6 million eligible individuals who have yet to receive a booster shot, the DOH said.

‘Insulate the economy’

Both the health department and the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned of a possible surge in COVID-19 infections, amid an election campaign and the easing of restrictions to further open the economy.

An additional 2.8 million were able to find work after many areas were placed under the most relaxed alert level in February, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.

The state planning agency also called for placing the entire country under alert level 1 to “help insulate the economy from external pressures,” notably the global economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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But the DOH said there might be 25,000 to as many as 60,000 daily cases by next month, especially since people may be neglecting to observe health and safety standards.

The WHO reminded Filipinos to do their part in proving wrong the projected surge.

“Yes, I have seen [the] numbers. So we have to prove those numbers wrong. That’s the challenge we face,” said Dr. Rajendra Yadav, acting WHO country representative, who was also at the Laging Handa briefing.

“The good thing is Filipinos are one of the best in terms of wearing masks. So that needs to continue. There was some decline recently in the mask-wearing and that should not happen. We have to cover our people with vaccines. These are the best two things that we can do, masking and vaccination,” Yadav said.

Continued decline

The country continued to see a decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions, alongside belated reports of coronavirus deaths from as far back as two years ago.

The DOH said 1,674 new cases, or an average of 239 daily cases, were confirmed by lab tests last week.

This was 12 percent lower than the previous week’s 1,906 newly detected cases or an average of 272 daily cases.

The increase in the death toll by 200 consisted of 143 fatalities in the past four months and 57 deaths between November 2020 and December 2021.

This pushed the country’s COVID-19 deaths to 59,972 since the pandemic began.

The 664 severe and critical cases reported on Monday were lower than the 707 cases a week ago.

—WITH A REPORT FROM BEN O. DE VERA

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For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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