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PH attains ‘substantial’ population immunity, says OCTA fellow

December 07, 2021 - Tuesday 4:12 PM by GDM

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The Philippines has so far obtained “substantial population immunity” from natural infections and vaccinations in the urban areas based on current data, a fellow from an independent research group said.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Talk to the People”, OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco Jr. noted that the country had the highest mobility levels in the past 20 months and experienced the lowest levels of cases and hospitalizations during the same period even with the presence of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

“And so what these three mean together is that it suggests that we have attained substantial population immunity from natural infections and vaccinations in the urban areas of the Philippines because the pandemic has raged and spread primarily in our cities and in our first class municipalities,” he told the President. 

“And so the fact that the virus is struggling to find new Filipinos to infect, suggests that we have attained substantial population immunity.”

To achieve herd immunity, 70% of the population needs to get vaccinated. As of Dec. 2, a total of 90,259,621 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered. Of this number, 52,473,282 Filipinos have received the first dose, while 37,353,438 individuals are now fully vaccinated.

Comparing the Philippines with its three neighbors in Southeast Asia, Thailand and Malaysia still haven’t seen a dip in cases despite having much earlier surges and the two nations are still experiencing 5,000 cases per day.

Vietnam, he said, also had a Delta peak. Unfortunately, Delta has resurged and Vietnam is still experiencing significant numbers of COVID-19 at 15,000 or so every day. 

“And so combining the vaccinations and the natural immunity, what you are seeing here is that many of our cities where the pandemic tends to focus are now — are now stable enough to prevent transmission,” said Austriaco. 

‘No need to panic’ 

Austriatico,  a molecular biologist, also advised Filipinos not to panic amid the threat posed by COVID-19 Omicron variant and instead move with caution, prepare and celebrate Christmas.

“We let us celebrate Pasko. This is the best time in 20 months for the entire country,” Austriaco said.

“And so this is not the time to panic. It is the time to be careful. We have to prepare. But we also have to celebrate especially since this is Christmas.”

Meanwhile, he suggested that the country prepare its hospital infrastructure and increase healthcare workers staffing capacity, considering during the Alpha and Delta surges, the country had nursing shortages, especially in Metro Manila.

And despite the waning number of infections, he appealed to Filipinos to get immunized.

“I must urge you to get vaccinated because Omicron, when it arrives in the Philippines, will find every unvaccinated Filipino. And you will get sick, and even though it is mild, it is still, it is still COVID-19,” he said.