Mask off for fully vaccinated Filipinos? DOH says PH to keep status quo

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 15) — Fully vaccinated Filipinos still need to stick with wearing face masks, the Department of Health said on Saturday.

"Hindi pa rin kami magrerekomenda na kayo ay magtatanggal ng mask kung kayo ay bakunado na," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing.

[Translation: We still do not recommend that you stop wearing masks once you have been fully vaccinated.]

Vergeire argued a vaccinated person "can still be infected, and infect others," adding there's not enough study to recommend that fully vaccinated individuals can roam without their face masks.

The DOH official also cried foul over the comparison between the Philippines and the US, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already advised fully vaccinated people that they do not need to wear masks when going out, and even indoors.

"Hindi po tama na kino-kompara ang sarili natin sa ibang bansa katulad ng US, kung saan napakalaking percent ng kanilang population ang nabakunahan compared dito sa atin that we're just nearing 3 million people who were vaccinated," she said.

[Translation: It's not right to compare ourselves to other countries like the US, where a huge percentage of the population has already been vaccinated unlike us who's just nearing 3 million.]

Vergeire said while the DOH is "open" to the idea, it will still wait for "enough evidence" that everyone's safety will not be compromised.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Rontgene Solante told CNN Philippines that studies in the US show virus transmission from a person fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is low, but it doesn't mean they are safe from contracting the disease.

"Our vaccine coverage is low. Yes, it (vaccine) can prevent symptoms against COVID-19 and with related severe infection but the data on the ability of the vaccine to prevent transmission is still not that high," Solante said.

Solante added that American vaccine manufacturers have their own data in assessing a vaccine's efficacy in blocking virus transmission and the ability to transmit virus when vaccinated, which became the guidance of the US CDC in ordering a no-mask policy outdoors.