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PBBM approves lifting of PH public health emergency status

MANILA -- President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. approved in principle the lifting of the country’s public health emergency status, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said on Tuesday.
“Yes, actually, this was one of his first instructions to me, to really get out of the COVID pandemic,” Herbosa told reporters during a briefing in Malacañang when asked if the President is keen on lifting the health emergency.
Asked if the President will issue an executive order regarding this, Herbosa said he is just awaiting an Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) resolution issued by his predecessor.
“So, if that is not yet signed, I will follow it up with a reiteration. Because I think, at that time, they were still hesitant because there was still the problem of how we get the bivalent if we lift it. But now, I think that obstacle is gone, kasi may CPR (certificate of product registration) na tayo and everything,” he said.
What happens now, he said, is that the risk is passed on to individuals especially after the World Health Organization (WHO) removed COVID-19 from the list of public health emergencies of international concern.
WHO now considers COVID-19 as one of the diseases and even the doctors now also consider it as just one of the respiratory illnesses, the Secretary said.
“There is still the risk of death for vulnerable people which is the elderly and those with medical conditions, immunocompromised. But the number of deaths has really declined,” Herbosa said.

Although the IATF already recommended the lifting, the health chief said the Office of the President has to study some other considerations such as the consequences of the official lifting of said status, including the effectivity of Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to get the bivalents.

But with Pfizer being given a CPR by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the bivalent vaccines are now going to be commercially available.

There is delay, however, as Pfizer is looking for the retailers that have the minus 7-degree freezers required for storage.

“I don’t know how Pfizer will do this but, eventually, it will require a physician’s prescription and then you can purchase it from them and you can also get access to bivalent vaccines,” he said.

“But for the poor, we’re still negotiating with COVAX for two million doses so that we can still be able to give to those who cannot afford to buy the bivalent.”

As to the monovalent vaccines previously given EUA, Herbosa said the government could still distribute them to the public for free and they are still valid as booster doses although most of the demand now is the bivalent vaccines because of their efficacy against newer COVID variants. (PND)

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Kate Shiene Austria

Information Officer III

Information Officer III under the Creative and Production Services Division of the Philippine Information Agency. 

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