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COVID-19 vaccines still effective vs. Delta variant, expert says

By CHARM MAGPALI Published Jun 23, 2021 5:24 pm

As the Philippines is on heightened alert after four new cases of the more infectious COVID-19 Delta variant were detected, an infectious disease specialist assured the public that the available coronavirus vaccines are still effective against the new variant.

Dr. Karl Henson of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Disease, Inc. in a Laging Handa briefing today, June 23, said that data from the United Kingdom shows that while vaccines have a lower efficacy rate against the Delta variant, they are still “almost as effective” in preventing severe diseases.

“So even if magkasakit ng COVID, pero naka-dalawang bakuna and at least naka-two weeks na from the second dose, protektado (kayo) from severe infection and death,” he said.

Henson cited the study from Public Health England, which found that the efficacy against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant for Pfizer was 88 percent two weeks after the second dose, and 60 percent with two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The study only cited AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, as they are the most commonly used vaccines in the UK. However, the specialist said that’s not to say that the other vaccines do not work against the new variant.

Henson said that majority of the healthcare workers in Indonesia who caught the Delta variant and were vaccinated with Sinovac only experienced mild infections.

Baguio City residents waiting to get vaccinated. Photos by Andy Zapata/Philippine Star

Reuters reported on June 17 that more than 350 doctors and medical workers in Kudus, Java caught the more infectious Delta variant, but most of the workers were asymptomatic and self-isolating at home. However, dozens were hospitalized with high fevers and falling oxygen-saturation levels.

The B.1.617 Delta variant, which was found in India in October 2020, was designated by the World Health Organization as the fourth “variant of concern” of COVID-19, and is becoming the globally dominant variant of the disease, according to chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan.

A Scottish study recently published in The Lancet medical journal revealed that the Delta variant has doubled in hospitalization rate as compared to the Alpha variant, and people with comorbidities were at greater risk of hospital admission when infected by the variant.

Another study also shows that it is more transmissible than the other pre-existing variants by about 43 to 90%.

A total of 17 Delta variant cases have so far been detected in the Philippines, according to the Department of Health. 15 have recovered, one has died, while one is still hospitalized.

He added that Moderna and Sinovac vaccines will “most likely” be also protective against severe diseases caused by the Delta variant, but they do not have the concrete data to prove this yet.

8.2 million Filipinos have received their first dose; 2.1 million are fully vaccinated as of June 19. 

As for Sputnik V, the Russian Direct Investment Fund cited a study by the Gamelaya Center that has been "submitted for publication in an international peer-reviewed journal" in a tweet on June 15, claiming that the Russian-made vaccine is "more efficient against the Delta variant" of coronavirus than any other vaccine that has published results on the strain so far. However, the result of the said study has yet to be released publicly.

With the surge of Delta variant cases in India despite vaccinations, Henson urged the public to continuously observe standard health protocols, whether you’re fully vaccinated or not.

“Yun po ang resulta talaga ng bakuna being less efficacious. Kaya po ang important parallel message ay dapat, aside from promoting vaccination, is hindi tayo magkulang or maging lax dun sa iba pang interventions against COVID,” he said.

He added that proper ventilation, mask wearing, hand hygiene and physical distancing will help decrease the chances of contracting any of the COVID variants on top of getting vaccinated.

As of June 19, about 8,222,759 Filipinos have already received their first dose, with 2,120,134 being fully vaccinated.

Banner photo by KrizJohn Rosales/Philippine Star