Duterte ready to take first jab

More minors may venture out

President Rodrigo Duterte is willing to take the vaccine jab once it is available but his vaccination will not be held in public as part of the government’s mass vaccination program and to convince the people of the safety of the vaccines, Malacanang said Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President preferred to follow the British monarchs who were vaccinated in private.

He said Duterte had agreed to receive the first shots of COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines to inspire public confidence was completely up to him.

“I will take the vaccine as soon as it is available’ because he said he needs to get vaccinated,” Roque said during a televised press briefing.

“The President does not have to be shown in public. He is taking the route of the British sovereign because of the decision of Queen Elizabeth and her  husband to keep their vaccination in private,” he said.

The President earlier said he was willing to be the first one to be injected with the coronavirus vaccine to prove its efficacy and safety.

Roque said the Palace would announce the President’s vaccination once it had been completed.

Even as the government steps up the vaccine procurement, a recent survey showed that almost half of Filipino respondents are not willing to get vaccinated due to safety concerns.

The government intends to secure 148 million doses of vaccines from various suppliers to administer to 70 million Filipinos in a bid to achieve herd immunity.

The first batch of the vaccine supplies is scheduled to be delivered to the country next month.

Age restrictions

With the economy still lagging behind despite the reopening of many sectors, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases is looking to ease further age restrictions on human mobility to allow outside movement to minors of 10 years to 14 years old to spur retail activity.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said there had not been a formal proposal yet but the IATF was carefully assessing if kids below 15 years old to as young as 10 years old could go out with family on a spending binge.

“This is just an opinion. There is no proposal yet and we are not rushing to have this imposed,” he said Tuesday.

The Department of Trade and Industry assumed that about 30 to 50 percent of consumption expenditure while on a day-out was brought about by consumption of a complete family especially families with children in tow.

Lopez said the new COVID-19 strain may also affect the various considerations the national government plans to implement to bring back the economy to what it was pre-COVID-19 times, “that’s why we advise businesses and other sectors to continue to reopen gradually and safely.”

Improving stats

He noted that when the different sectors started to reopen, the easing of age restrictions followed starting from 21 to 60 years old during the strict lockdowns to 18 to 60 years old as lockdowns eased and now allowing minors from 15 years up to senior citizens of 65 years of age.

“We see this easing of age restrictions not as an immediate need, neither urgent at this time. But we deem it important to offer this option this early and have it in place to encourage more consumer spending thus enlivening livelihood and the economy,” he said.

He explained that economic recovery is urgent but not to the extent of exposing the population to the virus particularly the children, “so if on a dry run the proposal won’t work, the government can always revert back to the previous restriction level.”

“In the end, it’s the parents who will decide how and if they will allow their younger kids access to outside life,” he added.

504,084 infected

The Philippines logged on Tuesday 1,357 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 504,084, as four laboratories failed to submit their data on time, the Department of Health reported.

The DOH also reported that 324 persons had recovered, through the government’s “mass recovery adjustment”, bringing the total number of recoveries to 466,249, which is 92.5 percent of the total number of cases.

The DOH also reported 69 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 9,978, which is 1.98 percent of the total cases.

Nationwide, of the approximately 2,200 total ICU bed capacity, 58 percent are available; of the approximately 16,400 total isolation bed capacity, 64 percent are available; of the approximately 8,000 total ward bed capacity, 73 percent are available; and of the approximately 2,100 total units of ventilators, 78 percent are available.

Contacts swabbed

Some 217 contacts of the Filipino who was infected with the more contagious COVID-19 variant found in the UK have been swabbed, an official said Tuesday.

Authorities were able to trace up to the second generation of the patient's contacts, said Dr. Rolly Cruz, head of the Quezon City epidemiology and surveillance unit.

All are now under a strict 14-day quarantine, he added.

The male patient, who resides in Quezon City and arrived Jan. 7 from Dubai, is now asymptomatic, QC Mayor Joy Belmonte earlier said.

Despite vaccines

Minimum public health standards should be strictly maintained even after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, since doing otherwise would make achieving herd immunity more difficult, a health expert said.

Dr. Anna Ong Lim, of Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, stressed as the country braced for the rollout of its unprecedented COVID-19 vaccination program next month.

“The higher our reproduction rate [of COVID-19 cases], the higher number of people we have to immunize to achieve herd immunity,” Lim said in an online briefing.

According to the OCTA Research Team, the country’s latest reproduction rate was 1.13. The Philippine population, meanwhile, was around 110 million.

Achieving herd immunity would thus require vaccinating 60 to 70 percent of the population.

Vaccination points

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said they had identified 4,512 fixed vaccination points in the country.

Vaccine czar Galvez, however, admitted the bulk of the country's vaccine supply would only arrive by July this year and that the brand of COVID-19 vaccine that would be deployed to areas would depend on the storage requirements of the brand.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines had a -20 to -80 degree Celsius storage requirement —limiting their use to Metro Manila, the cities of Cebu and Davao, as well as some areas in regions of Central Luzon and Calabarzon.

Only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA found it 95 percent and 92 percent effective on study populations and among all races, respectively—a requirement before a vaccine can be administered in the country.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Harry Roque , COVID-19 , Vaccine , Francisco Duque III , Department of Health
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