DOH: More cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021   •   67

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday said it has detected more cases of covid-19 variants in the country.

This was based on the latest whole-genome sequencing report of the Philippine Genome Center and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH).

The DOH said that from the 744 samples sequenced last week, additional 289 B.1.1.7 variant cases (United Kingdom), 380 B.1.351 (South Africa) variant cases, and 9 P.3 (Philippines) variant cases were detected.

Of the new B.1.1.7 variant cases, 48 are Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs), 185 are local cases, while 56 cases are still being verified.

Based on the case line list, 3 cases remain active while 2 have died and 284 have recovered, the DOH said.

Of the 380 new B.1.351 variant cases, 107 cases are ROFs, 196 are local cases, and 77 cases are still under verification. The DOH said that based on the case line list, one case is still active and 379 cases have been tagged as recovered.

Out of the nine new P.3 variant cases, 3 are ROFs, 4 are local cases, and 2 cases are being verified if they are local or ROF cases. Based on the case line list, all 9 cases have recovered, the agency said.

“B.1.351 is the most common variant among the samples sequenced with assigned lineages, contrary to reports that it is now the dominant variant in the country,” the DOH said in a statement.

It also reiterated that the P.3 variant, which was first reported in the Philippines, is still not identified as a variant of concern since current data is insufficient to determine whether the variant will have significant public health implications.

The DOH said that a total of 7,167 samples have been sequenced so far, and out of those with assigned lineages, 18.2% tested positive for B.1.351, 16.0% had B.1.1.7, 2.7% were found with the P.3, while 0.03% had the P.1 variant.

To complement the intensified vaccination activities, the DOH calls on the public to strictly and consistently adhere to the minimum public health standards to minimize the risk of exposure and infection.

DOH studying possibility of mixing vaccine brands – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is currently looking into the possibility of mixing different brands of vaccines against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Thursday.

FDA director general Eric Domingo said the DOH is already drafting a set of guidelines that will allow a person to receive different brands of COVID-19 vaccines for first and second dose in case of severe allergic reaction and other adverse effects.

Aaralin po ngayon yan ng Department of Health, in fact, meron naman po talagang ongoing meetings ang Department of Health on that dahil meron po talagang instances na for example naturukan ka ng bakuna ng first dose tapos nagka-severe allergy ka so hindi ka na puwede sa second dose nun at kailangang isipin ngayon yung magiging alternative,” Domingo said during the Laging Handa briefing.

“Gumagawa na ng guidelines ngayon ang DOH kung paano ‘yung interchangeability or mixing ng vaccines in case the second dose cannot be given na identical doon sa first dose,” he added.

Domingo said this after President Rodrigo Duterte said he has requested China to recall the 1,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines it donated following criticisms over his decision to receive a jab that has yet to secure an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

Duterte received his first dose of Sinopharm vaccine on Monday night.

Malacañang earlier said that the vaccine dose used on the president was covered by the compassionate special permit issued by the FDA for the Presidential Security Group.

DND’s Lorenzana backs Duterte remark on arbitral ruling on WPS vs China

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday expressed agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent remark on the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) favoring the Philippines in its case against China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“What President Duterte said last night regarding the PCA ruling is correct,” Lorenzana said in a statement, referring to Duterte’s statement that nothing happened when he tried to assert the arbitral ruling on the Philippines’ rights in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea.

In a pre-taped public address on Wednesday night, Duterte said he tried to pursue the arbitral ruling when he came to power in 2016 but “nothing happened,” adding that the ruling was “just a piece of paper” that can be tossed into a waste basket.

Lorenzana said he agrees with the President when he said that there is no international law enforcement body that can enforce the ruling.

He, however, stressed that even without the PCA ruling, the Philippine government will still continue to defend “what is rightfully ours.”

“As I said in my previous statement, the President’s orders have been firm and straightforward: we defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas,” he said.

Lorenzana also said that Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue conducting maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group.

The National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea earlier said that it has intensified maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea after Chinese vessels were spotted lingering in areas within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The Department of Foreign Affairs have repeatedly filed diplomatic protests over Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte’s second Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine dose won’t be returned to China – Roque

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will still get his second dose of COVID-9 vaccine developed by Chinese drug-maker Sinopharm despite his request for China to take back the donated doses, Malacañang said Thursday.

“Siyempre po, di ibabalik yung second dose ng presidente, para matapos niya yung second dose niya,” Presidential Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

In a pre-taped Cabinet briefing on Wednesday night, Duterte defended his decision to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to undergo further evaluation and secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Duterte also stressed that his vaccination was legal as the Sinopharm vaccine dose he used was covered by the compassionate special permit (CSP) issued by the FDA.

He apologized for using a vaccine that has not been vetted by Philippine authorities then said that he had asked China to withdraw the donated Sinopharm doses.

“Ako mismo ang nagpaturok. It is the decision of my doctor. Anyway, it’s my life,” he said.

“Just before this meeting started, I had a talk with the ambassador. Sabi ko sa kanya, ang mga experts nagsabi, ‘Wala pa ito, hindi dumaan sa examination sa atin.’ Ang ibinigay ay compassionate use […] Ibig sabihin magamit mo compassionate,” he added.

Roque earlier said that the vaccine dose used on Duterte was covered by the PSG’s compassionate use permit for 10,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses.

The FDA earlier said that Sinopharm’s application for EUA remains pending as firms that have filed for its emergency use in the Philippines have yet to submit requirements.

“Ang problema po kasi sa Sinopharm, it is a state-owned corporation, hindi gaya ng Sinovac na isang private corporation kaya natatagalan ang proseso. Kasi kailangang magtalaga ng representante ang Sinopharm kung sino talaga ang maghahain ng mga papeles dito sa Pilipinas o sa FDA. Wala naman po itong prejudice to Sinopharm appointing an agent and complying with all the requirements of the FDA,” Roque said.

“Panatag naman po ang loob natin na maaaprubahan din ang EUA ng Sinopharm dahil Sinopharm is in use po in 25  25 countries worldwide at nakakuha na rin siya ng EUA in 25 other countries,” he added.

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