DOH REITERATES EFFECTIVENESS OF VACCINATION IN PREVENTING SEVERE COVID-19 AND DEATH, REGARDLESS OF VARIANTS

Press Release | 18 October 2022

Following the recent detection of the Omicron XBB subvariant and XBC variant in the country and recognizing their reported potential immune-escape characteristics, the Department of Health (DOH) today underscored that vaccines remain effective in preventing severe and critical COVID-19, as well as death from COVID-19, regardless of variant. The Department also assured that surveillance and monitoring activities continue to be implemented to ensure that threats of possible outbreaks are immediately addressed.

Likewise, the DOH emphasized that despite the detection of the new variant and subvariant, the country’s healthcare utilization rate remains at low risk, and that preparatory activities have already been initiated to ensure that triage systems are in place and step-down health facilities are available should an increase in healthcare utilization rates be observed.

To further ensure that the country’s healthcare utilization rates remain low, the DOH reminded the public, especially the immunocompromised and the elderly, to get vaccinated and boosted to prevent severe and critical COVID-19, as well as death.

Moreover, the DOH highlighted that new variants will naturally emerge with continued transmission, and that limiting the spread of COVID-19 is the definitive way to prevent this emergence. Hence, adherence to minimum public health standards such as masking, isolation, ventilation, and hand washing are important steps the public can take to mitigate transmission.

“We remind the public that regardless of the variant, we must continue to work together to prevent virus transmission and mutation. Hence, as we learn to live with COVID-19, we must arm ourselves with the proper knowledge and ability to assess our individual risk and consequently supplant our individual defenses such as vaccination,  masking, physical distancing, sanitation, and ventilation.” said Health Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.

 

###

ANNEX A:

Briefer on Cases Related to New Variants

The Department of Health (DOH), the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), UP-PGC Visayas, and the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) report that of the 766 samples sequenced, one (1) Delta variant and its sublineages (0.13%), one (1) Omicron BA.2.75 variant case (0.13%), 3 Omicron BA.4 variant cases (0.39%), 180 Omicron BA.5 variant cases (23.49%), 246 Omicron BA.2.3.20 variant cases (32.11%), 61 XBB variant cases (7.96%), and 71 XBC variant cases (9.27%) were detected in the latest batch of whole genome sequencing run last October 15-17, 2022.

OMICRON XBB SUBVARIANT:
The XBB variant, first detected in India last August 2022, is a recombinant of two Omicron subvariants. At present, it has been detected in at least 24 countries and 4 continents and has been the primary cause of the recent spikes of COVID-19 cases in Singapore. Preliminary studies suggest that the XBB variant shows higher immune evasion ability than the BA.5 variant, but there is no sufficient evidence that this variant causes a more severe illness. Currently available evidence for XBB does not suggest any differences in disease severity and/or clinical manifestations compared to the B.1.1.529 Omicron variant.

The 61 XBB variant cases were all local cases with indicated addresses from Western Visayas with 60 cases and Davao Region with one (1) case. Based on the case line list, eight (8) cases are still active, 50 cases have been tagged as recovered, while there are three (3) cases whose outcomes are still being verified.

Due to the rapidly changing nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, lineage assignment of samples may change as more sequences are submitted to the global genome database (Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data). Twenty (20) cases previously detected with an Omicron subvariant were reclassified as the XBB variant by the Phylogenetic Assignment of Named Global Outbreak Lineages (PANGOLIN) tool. As of the latest sequencing run, a total of 81 XBB cases have been detected in the country.

XBC VARIANT:
The XBC variant is a recombinant of the Omicron BA.2 and Delta (B.1.617.2) variant. As of October 3, 2022, the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) classified the XBC variant as a variant under monitoring and investigation. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centers for Disease Control (ECDC) are yet to determine the risk this variant poses.

The 71 XBC variant cases were all local cases with indicated addresses from SOCCSKSARGEN with 38 cases, Davao Region with 27 cases, Western Visayas with five (5) cases, and one (1) case from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Based on the case line list, five (5) cases died, 63 cases have been tagged as recovered, while there are three (3) cases whose outcomes are still being verified.

In addition, 122 cases previously detected with Omicron or Delta subvariants were reclassified as the XBC variant. As of the latest sequencing run, a total of 193 XBC cases have been detected in the country.

OMICRON VARIANT AND ITS SUBVARIANTS:
The additional Omicron variant cases were local cases. Of the 246 BA.2.3.20 variant cases, seven (7) are still active, 220 have been tagged as recovered, while there are 19 cases whose outcomes are still being verified. The three (3) BA.4 variant cases were all tagged as recovered. Of the 180 BA.5 variant cases, three (3) are still active, one (1) has died, 173 have been tagged as recovered, while there are three (3) cases whose outcomes are still being verified. The lone BA.2.75 variant case has been tagged as recovered.

As of the latest sequencing run and based on the recent lineage reclassification, there are a total of 1,122 BA.2.3.20 variant cases, 17 BA.2.75 variant cases, 315 BA.4 variant cases, and 11,997 BA.5 variant cases.

DELTA VARIANT AND ITS SUBVARIANTS:
The additional Delta variant case was a local case that has been tagged as recovered. As of current date and based on the recent lineage reclassification done, the total number of confirmed Delta variant cases is now 8,737.

###