Philippines’ National Task Force against COVID 19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr warned the public on the highly-transmissible Delta COVID 19 variant that was first detected in India and has now reached the country’s shores.
During President Duterte’s Talk to the People on Monday, June 21, the vaccine czar raised this growing concern among infectious disease experts and a private management consulting firm, which updates task force officials on developments regarding the pandemic.
“Nakita natin during our discussion with experts kasama sina Father Nic [Austriaco] at Boston Consulting Group na ang Delta variant, hindi lang siya highly transmissible kundi nag-increase din ang severity. Kaya kailangan na mag-increase din talaga ang vigilance on the Delta variant,” said Galvez.
According to Dr. Edsel Salvana, director of Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the National Institute of Health at the University of the Philippines Manila, the Delta variant has “60 percent increased transmission [rate] over Alpha or the UK variant, which has already 60 percent increased transmission [rate] over the original virus from Wuhan.”
He said that the variant is 40 percent more infectious outdoors and 60 percent more infectious indoors.
“So mabagsik po talaga ito. If we thought Alpha was mabagsik, ‘yong UK variant, mas mabagsik po itong Indian variant, ‘yong Delta.”Dr. Edsel Salvana
He explained that partially vaccinated individuals or those who have only received one dose of the anti-COVID 19 vaccine may still get infected by the new variant, as full protection against the disease can only be achieved with two doses of the vaccine.
Galvez called on all eligible populations, as well as those who received their first dose to ensure that they get both shots of the vaccine.
“Kaya po hinihikayat po natin sa ating mga kababayan na talagang as much as possible iyong mga ibang hindi pa nakaka-second dose ay magpa-second dose na po. Dahil kapag hindi natin kinuha ito, hindi po tayo fully protected from the variants,” said Galvez.
So far, the Philippines has recorded a total of 17 cases of the Delta variant mostly detected from inbound travelers, as health experts recommended the need to maintain quarantine protocols and ensure strict border controls at all points of entry across the country.
This includes a 14-day quarantine period for individuals, wherein 10 days are spent in a quarantine facility, after which they will get tested on the seventh day, and then undergo home quarantine for another four days.
President Duterte acknowledged the recommendations made by the health experts saying, “I will agree with you considering that this D variant is very aggressive and it can proliferate in so much short period of time. We may experience a second wave much more serious than the first.”
“Second, is we cannot afford it. Iyong nangyari sa ating, ‘yong first wave, it has depleted really the resources of government. Now, another one would be disastrous for this country. That is why the stricter you are, the better,” said Duterte.
Bulk deliveries of vaccines
Meanwhile, Galvez reported that around four million doses of anti-COVID 19 shots are still expected to arrive towards the end of June.
He said that Sinovac and Moderna have confirmed the deliveries of 1.5 doses of CoronaVac on June 24 and 250,000 doses of Moderna on June 27.
The COVAX facility, on the other hand, will be shipping out more than two million Astrazeneca doses, while the Gamaleya Institute is expected to deliver 150,000 doses of Sputnik V’s component II vaccines this month.
By July, more than 11 million vaccine doses are expected to arrive in the Philippines as manufacturers ramp up their deliveries.
Sinovac is set to deliver 4.5 million doses, with Moderna and Gamaleya Institute expected to send one million doses each, while Astrazeneca is sending an initial trance of 1.17 million doses procured by the private sector
The COVAX facility is also expected to ship another four million doses of Astrazeneca and Pfizer vaccines.
Galvez said that Sinovac has committed to complete by September the deliveries of the 20.5 million doses of CoronaVac vaccines procured by the government through the Asian Development Bank.
The steady deliveries from Sinovac, he noted, will further increase the country’s inventory, as the China-based company is expected to ship out at least six million doses monthly until the end of this year.
The Philippines has so far received a total of nine million doses from Sinovac, of which one million doses were donated by the Chinese government, 500,000 doses were procured by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc, and 7.5 million doses were purchased by the national government.
For this year, the country has secured a total of 26 million doses from Sinovac. Some 5.5 million doses were procured through the Department of Health’s 2021 budget and 20.5 million doses were purchased through a multilateral arrangement.