(MNS Photo)

MANILA, July 12 (Mabuhay) –An infectious disease expert on Monday said it is already high time for the government to mandate the administration of booster shots to the general population as the COVID-19 infections in the country continue to increase.

During a Laging Handa briefing, Dr. Rontgene Solante pointed out that the booster uptake in the country is still “very low” or below 20% of the target population.

“Kailangang mandatory na siguro para lang ma-increase natin ang protection [this should be made mandatory to increase the people’s protection], especially now we’re preparing for the face-to-face classes in November and the workplaces are also open now,” he said.

Based on the Department of Health’s (DOH) national COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, some 15.1 million individuals have received their booster shots as of July 11. This is a far cry from the 71 million who are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The DOH on Thursday, however, said the administration of booster shots and the primary vaccine series are still not mandatory in the country even as President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. reportedly agreed with the agency’s proposal to include the first booster dose before an individual could be tagged as fully vaccinated.

On the other hand, Dr. Edsel Salvana, another infectious disease expert, said it is still important for the public to abide by the current booster inoculation setup as it is backed by scientific evidence.

The national government is currently administering first booster shots for aged 12 and above as early as three months after receiving their second primary vaccine dose.

Meanwhile, those who are only allowed to take the second booster dose are the frontline healthcare workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals.

“Very important na sundan muna natin itong mga guidelines na ‘to dahil meron talagang naka-backup na siyensya at meron na rin tayong mga updated vaccines na on our way hopefully by September or October… these are Omicron-specific vaccines,” Salvana said in a Balitanghali interview.

(It is very important that we follow these guidelines because they are really backed up science and we also have updated Omicron-specific vaccines that are on our way hopefully by September or October.)

Weak surge

Further, Solante answered in the affirmative when asked if he thinks that a “weak surge” of COVID-19 cases has already started as projected by the OCTA Research.

“Yes, I think this is starting now. ‘Yung positivity rate natin, ‘yung mga newly infected individuals based on that positivity rate ay nag-umpisa nang tumaas [The positivity rate and and number of infected individuals are starting to increase]. We are above 10% now, especially in the National Capital Region,” he said.

“We would expect this uptick of the cases to be in the next three to four weeks siguro dahil mataas ang hawaan nitong bagong mga variants na nakikita natin [because the new variants are highly transmissible]… like the BA.5 and BA.4,” he added.

NCR’s positivity rate or the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested further increased to 10.9% as of July 9, according to OCTA Research.

The Philippines on Sunday logged 2,018 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily tally in nearly five months. This put the country’s active coronavirus case count at 13,818. (MNS)

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