Expert: Waiting for bivalent vaccines not an option for vulnerable population amid BQ.1 threat

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 28) — An infectious diseases expert on Monday reiterated the call for the public, especially the vulnerable population, to get their required two booster shots following the detection of the highly transmissible Omicron BQ.1 sublineage in the country.

While others may wait for the bivalent vaccines to arrive in the country, Dr. Rontgene Solante also told CNN Philippines' The Source that this is not an option for the vulnerable group.

"Waiting should not be an option because anytime you [can] get the infection, especially yung mga vulnerable population natin, yung mga 60 years old and above, yung may mga comorbidities (our vulnerable population, the 60 years old and above and those with comorbidities)," he said.

RELATED: Gov't awaits EUA, HTAC approval for procurement of bivalent vaccines

The expert noted that many of those from the vulnerable population still get admitted in hospitals due to severe COVID-19 complications.

In its update last week, the Department of Health (DOH) said two new critical infections were recorded, which is 0.03% of the 8,004 new cases from Nov. 14 to 20. It also reported 568 severe and critical patients who are in hospitals, which is 9.4% of total COVID-19 admissions.

Latest figures also showed that 73.7 million individuals or 94.38% of the target population have been vaccinated against COVID-19. On the other hand, 20.8 million have received their booster shots, still behind the 23-million target of the Marcos administration.

The low booster uptake, coupled with the presence of BQ.1 in the country, will contribute to the expected increase in the number of infections especially during the holiday season, Solante warned. 

"As long as we have this BQ.1 and a lot have not received their needed booster doses then that is expected that infections will rise, there will be uptick of cases and it will be a concern especially for the vulnerable population," he said, noting that hospital admissions due to severe infections are also expected to rise.

Solante, however, noted cases will not be as high as 25,000 to 30,000 that was experienced in January this year due to higher population immunity.

Meanwhile, infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvaña said he believes and hopes that there will be no surge of COVID-19 cases during the holidays.

“If ever na tumaas man, dahil syempre pakikihalubilo mga tao during Christmas [kaya] kailangan natin iwasan itong respiratory illnesses lalo na yung trangkaso,” Salvaña said during the Laging Handa briefing.

[Translation: If ever the number of COVID-19 cases increases, it is because the people join gatherings during Christmas. That is why we should avoid any respiratory illnesses, especially the flu.]

“Dito may bisa talaga yung paggamit ng mask laban sa COVID. Makakatulong din po ito sa pag prevent ng pagkuha ng Influenza at common cold,” he added.

[Translation: Here, we will see that wearing facemasks is effective against COVID-19. It will also help prevent from getting Influenza and common cold.]

The DOH has so far reported over 4 million COVID-19 cases, with more than 18,000 currently ill patients.