President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said he is likely to extend the state of public health emergency in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic until the end of the year.
Marcos said the county would lose international assistance in combatting COVID-19 if the declaration of a state of calamity, which expires on Sept. 12, is lifted.
He said the international medical community, including the World Health Organization (WHO), is supporting countries under a state of emergency, adding “if we lift it, the support will stop, as well.”
“The international medical community is giving us a lot of help when there is a state of emergency,” he said.
The President said amending the procurement laws for vaccines would take time, hence his decision to extend the nationwide state of calamity.
He added that he had discussions with the Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire about the situation.
Marcos made these remarks during the PinasLakas vaccination campaign in Manila, where he received his second booster dose against COVID-19.
“I was just told by Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire that there will be a vaccine against the new subvariants of Omicron,” he said.
“We will study this and if it is going to be helpful, then we will do everything to bring it here to the Philippines and we can give it to those who need to receive the booster shot,” he added.
The President and his son Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Sandro Marcos received their second booster shots against COVID-19 on Wednesday in a mall in the City of Manila.
During his speech to the “PinasLakas” vaccination campaign in Manila, Marcos reiterated the importance of getting COVID-19 boosters amid the presence of emerging variants and to revive the pandemic-battered economy.
Vergeire administered Marcos’ 4th dose.
“To be fully immunized again, you need to have a booster shot,” Marcos said.
Marcos tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time in July and experienced mild symptoms, including fever.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said Wednesday that the travel advisory released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) telling travelers to be up-to-date with their vaccines before visiting the Philippines was in line with the Marcos administration’s policy.
“We do not admit foreigners who are unvaccinated because we know the importance of vaccination to prevent severe infections,” she said in a radio interview in Filipino.
At the same time, Vergeire said the Philippines is using different metrics from the US CDC in classifying COVID-19 risks, and that preserving the country’s health care system is of top priority.
Meanwhile, an infectious disease expert said there is a need to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for teachers as face-to-face classes resume on Aug. 22.
Dr. Rontgene Solante made the remark during the Malacanang briefing when asked if he would recommend to the government to protect students who are not yet allowed to receive booster shots.
“One of the things I want to advocate is for teachers to have a very high rate of immunization or vaccination. This is because we see that many teachers are not yet vaccinated [against COVID-19],” he said.
Solante said, to build a wall of immunity in schools, teachers should set an example so students will also comply with the vaccination.
“Many parents are scared that when their kids go to school, the teachers aren’t vaccinated,” he said.
“So it’s important, we need to mandate vaccination also for teachers, not only for the children,” he added.
Solante’s call runs counter to the official Department of Education stand that vaccination for teachers and students is not mandatory.
Also on Wednesday, the DOH said it has consolidated the Commission on Audit’s report that flagged the P85 million worth of expiring or expired medicines caused by deficient procurement planning, poor distribution and monitoring systems.
Vergeire said the DOH would respond to the COA report within the 60-day period set by the audit agency.
Vergeire also appealed to COA to “avoid announcing to the public” their findings without giving the DOH the opportunity to reply.