OCTA fellow: Vaccination, antivirals to make COVID-19 endemic, open PHL society

An OCTA Research fellow on Monday night said vaccination and antiviral drugs will end the COVID-19 pandemic in the country and finally open society.

In a briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte, Fr. Nicanor Austriaco urged all Filipinos to get vaccinated to build and maintain population immunity.

“The way out of this pandemic is through vaccinations and anti-viral drugs. This combination will transform pandemic COVID-19 into endemic COVID-19,” Austriaco said.

“We will be able to open the society where COVID-19 will become a regular flu,” he added.

He also urged the government to increase population immunity around international gateways or airports.

“Omicron will enter through an airport, most likely and so we have to build a wall of vaccinated Filipinos around these airports because once Omicron arrives, it will try to spread to the Filipino population and if the Filipinos around the airports are heavily vaccinated then it doesn’t matter if there is an OFW who returns home because even if this person is able to enter the community, the virus will struggle,” Austriaco said.

He also called on the government to continue to procure antiviral drugs to “further decouple cases and hospitalizations.”

“All antiviral drugs are equally effective against all variants of SARS-CoV-2,” he said.

Omicron

While Omicron is likely to be more transmissible and more immune evasive than the Delta variant, Austriaco said preliminary data shows it is probably less deadly.

“I have to point out that this is preliminary data and we are waiting for data from the older population in the global north because there are not many lolos and lolas in South Africa and so most of the patients that we are seeing in hospitals in South Africa are relatively young,” he said.

“So we still do not know what will happen when Omicron begins to spread in the northern part of the world where more of the population are older,” he added.

The Philippines imposed a travel ban on several countries due to the new variant, said to be more infectious than other COVID-19 variants.

The variant, which is found to have more than 30 mutations, is being blamed for the spike of cases in South Africa.

The Philippines has temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Botswana, and other countries with local cases or with the likelihood of occurrences of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa.

The Department of Health said the Omicron variant has not yet been detected in the country.–LDF, GMA News

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