Israeli health experts advise PH to intensify ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts; booster shots ‘irrelevant at the moment’

The Israeli medical experts who arrived on July 26, 2021. (Ariel Fernandez/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Medical experts from Israel advised the Philippines not to think for now of using coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine booster shots and focus first in vaccinating its eligible population.

“Our main recommendation for the Philippines is to continue what they are doing at the moment----vaccinating more and more citizens of the Philippines,” said Israeli Infectious Diseases and COVID-19 Specialist Dr. Guy Choshen during a press briefing on Friday, July 30.

“The more people vaccinated, you (will) see less and less hospitalization, less and less severe and critical cases, and this is what you are looking for. This is one of your important goals in order not to overwhelm the medical centers,” he added.

Choshen said that a third dose or booster vaccine is “irrelevant at the moment” in terms of the country’s current COVID-19 vaccination situation, saying that “this is not the main concern at the moment.”

“My main concern as a Filipino would be to get the vaccine. It does not matter which manufacturer, it does not matter if it is mixed or not mixed. What is available, my advice, take it,” he said.

“As a minister of health, I would take the third booster dose and give it to someone who is not vaccinated at all. The third dose at the moment, (with the) situation at the moment in the Philippines, I think it is irrelevant--- and just vaccinate as many people as possible,” he added.

The four-man group of Israeli medical experts arrived in the Philippines last July 26 to share Israel's best practices in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philippine Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III assured the visiting experts that the government is doing its best to improve the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

“Everything is being done to improve the efficiency by which the vaccination is being done and we hope to engage the local government units and help them be the instrument of giving out best practices,” said Duque.

Duque encouraged the local government units (LGUs) to make innovations in rolling out their respective vaccination activities.

“Many LGUs have already adopted even the drive-thru mode of vaccination. So, we encourage innovation, if they can do this and be able to vaccinate more people, achieve our collected target of 500,000 jabs a day, then that's going to allow us to reach our goal of herd immunity but supply permitting because our problem now is we really don't have enough supplies of vaccines. But we have seen that the efficiencies have improved a great deal,” he said.

Choshen said that vaccination will help hamper the COVID-19 virus from mutating.

“This is the main goal of the whole planet: to vaccinate as many people as possible--- to lessen the opportunities for the virus to mutate or to create new variants,” said Choshen.

Aside from vaccination, Duque also emphasized the importance of active case finding, shortening the detection to isolation/quarantine interval, tracing close contacts, among others, to combat the threat of COVID-19 and its virus’ variants.

“I don't think this is going to end anytime soon. So let us disabuse our minds that this virus will disappear one day. It might... we can't really say, but we do not have the luxury of such an imagination. So we have to continuously be on the lookout for these mutations,” he said.