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Government not acquiring more bivalent vaccines

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has no plans of acquiring more COVID bivalent vaccines as it was found to increase antibodies for old strains of the virus, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said yesterday.

During a Palace briefing, Herbosa said the country has consumed all 390,000 bivalent vaccines that came from the Lithuanian government in June.

“Apparently, what was discovered was the bivalent is not as effective, because it increases your antibodies to the original, not the later ones. So, it’s like 70 percent of the antibodies triggered or still the older ones,” Herbosa said.

“In that case, it doesn’t really protect you from the newer variant,” he added.

Herbosa said the US pharmaceutical company Moderna has released a new monovalent COVID shot targeting the XBB Omicron strain.

“They changed again their formula and created monovalent XBB. We will still think whether we will need that, depending on our increase in cases,” he said, referring to Moderna.

Herbosa said the Department of Health (DOH) has not recorded an increase in the infection like Singapore, which is experiencing a surge in cases primarily driven by two variants – EG.5 and its sub-lineage HK.3 – both descendants of the XBB Omicron variant.

Herbosa said symptoms are still mild and there were no reported deaths because of new COVID strains.

“We have to watch out for it. We are hoping that the fact that most Filipinos are completely vaccinated against COVID, symptoms will be mild and this new variety is also like upper respiratory mild infection,” he said.

The DOH’s epidemiology bureau has been monitoring the increase of influenza-like illness, Herbosa said.

He said there are some schools that converted to online blended learning because some of the students contracted influenza-like ilnesses.

“It’s during the rainy season when respiratory illness increases because we need to close windows, we are in enclosed spaces and people can really get infected,” he said.

Herbosa reminded the public, especially the elderly, to avail themseles of flu shots.

“It’s still flu season, get the flu shot. We have flu shots at the DOH. If you are high risk, especially elderly and senior citizens, get your flu