Philippines confirms first case of COVID variant

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  • The Department of Health (DoH) on Wednesday (January 13) confirmed that the COVID-19 variant first reported in the United Kingdom has reached the Philippines.

    The B117 variant was detected in a sample taken from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    The male patient from Quezon City left Dubai on December 27.

    The man arrived in the country on January 7 via Emirates airlines flight EK332.

    The person was quarantined upon arrival and swabbed. The sample was sent to the Philippine Genome Center.

    “The initially identified contacts are asymptomatic and currently under strict home quarantine. The DoH continues to work closely with the QC LGU (Quezon City government) to ensure timely and effective measures are in place to mitigate transmission,” the DoH said.

    The DoH said it has secured the flight manifest for contact tracing purposes. It advised those who were in the same flight to coordinate with their barangay health response teams.

    On January 6, Hong Kong authorities detected a case of the new COVID-19 variant from a woman who came from Manila. The woman was later identified as a Filipina domestic helper who came from Cagayan Valley.

    The Philippines has barred travelers from 31 countries in a bid to prevent the entry of the variant.

    The government may roll out its COVID-19 vaccination program in the first quarter of 2021.

    The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration has authorized the emergency use of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine.

    The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has shown a 95 pere cent success rate, is the first vaccine the Philippines has approved.

    The government aims to inoculate 100,000 to 200,000 Filipinos daily in a national vaccine rollout.

    The approval comes three weeks since the US-based company applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines.

    Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one that has been included in the World Health Organization’s emergency list. Among other vaccine frontrunners, it also has EUAs in the most number of countries.

    An EUA allows Pfizer’s vaccine to be imported, distributed and administered in the Philippines through a national immunization program.

    Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said that Pfizer may be the first vaccine to enter the country through the help of COVAX Facility, an international platform that aims for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

    This means Pfizer may be the first vaccine to be used in the country, ahead of China’s vaccines from biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac.

    Unlike other vaccines, Pfizer and BioNtech uses a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, which taps newer technology. It has an effectivity rate of 95 percent but requires ultra cold storage, making it difficult for poor countries to import and store it.

    Galvez earlier said that the Pfizer vaccine will most likely be used in Metro Manila and other areas near the vaccine hubs in Cebu and Davao because of its storage requirements.

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