‘Bubble would burst’: WHO says too early for ‘COVID vaccine bubbles’

MANILA (UPDATE) – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said vaccine bubbles would not work “at this point in time” as existing COVID-19 vaccines could not prevent breakthrough infections.

Several sectors have been urging the Philippine government to create vaccine bubbles or separate transportation, dining, and other outdoor systems for fully inoculated individuals to curb the virus’ transmission.

“The bubble wouldn’t hold. It would burst so we don’t advocate for vaccine bubbles at this point in time,” said WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.

“The concept of bubble for vaccinated people doesn’t actually hold true because you will continue to be at risk of getting infected,” he said in an online press conference.

The efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines have been reduced because of the Delta variant, he said.

The efficacy ranges between 50 and 95 percent, the WHO official said.

“You are infected for a shorter period of time so this is another advantage of the vaccines, but they are not full proof,” he said.

Abeyasinghe instead urged the government to get more senior citizens and persons with comorbidities fully vaccinated to prevent more lockdowns that could hurt further the economy.

“If you want to maximize the benefit your vaccination program, 
we must target these groups, prioritize these groups,” he said.

“Vaccinating other people is not going to prevent an already overwhelmed health care system. If your health care system is overwhelmed, you will have to go for more stringent quarantine,” he said.

NTF BACKS ‘BAKUNA BUBBLE’ IN NCR

But National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. said his task force is open to the proposed “bakuna bubble” in Metro Manila. 

The said vaccine bubble seeks to allow immunized individuals to enter malls, restaurants, gyms, and salons, among other places. 

The region has so far fully vaccinated over 45 percent and partially vaccinated more than 80 percent of its eligible or adult population as of August 29. 

“We can make the bubble, maybe sa [National Capital Region] na medyo mataas na ang vaccination (where it has a high vaccination rate)” Galvez said.

“I believe once we have reached more or less 50 percent or 70 percent, dapat bigyan natin ng incentive ang vaccinated,” he added.

(We should give incentives to those who are already vaccinated)

But for the rest of the country, Galvez said such policy cannot be implemented for now as the COVID-19 vaccine supply remained limited.

“I agree… na talagang dapat ‘yung burden ibigay natin sa mga people who are unvaccinated. But for now na kakaunti pa kasi ang vaccine natin, we cannot force the bubble to those people na talagang hindi pa vaccinated because of lack of supply,” he said.

(We should put the burden on the people already vaccinated, but right now our vaccines are still limited, we cannot force the bubble to areas that do not have a steady supply of vaccines)

Of the target 70 million Filipinos, close to 14 million have been fully vaccinated, while 19.7 million are partially inoculated against the respiratory disease. 

The country has so far taken delivery of 51.9 million virus jabs from the COVAX Facility and other vaccine manufacturers. 

The Department of Justice earlier cited the equal protection clause and still limited supply of COVID-19 shots as reasons on why vaccine bubbles should not yet be implemented in the Philippines. 

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