A tentative date has been set for the Philippines to receive its first batch of vaccines for the monkeypox virus. According to Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge and undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergerie, the country is slated to procure the jabs in 2023 at the earliest.
In an interview with ANC today, Aug. 10, Vergerie said that ASEAN nations have been staging "exploratory meetings" for the acquisition of vaccines and are predisposed to purchase the antibiotics "as one so that we can have stocks for all these countries."
Meanwhile, the Philippine government has been coordinating with agencies in the private sector to streamline the purchase of vaccines. According to Vergeire, there are three companies identified as manufacturers of the drug.
"So what we are doing in the country is really coordinating with our private sector counterparts and meron na pong nag-signify that they will be helping us," the health undersecretary said. "Unfortunately doon sa mga pag-uusap, ang pinakamaagang delivery kung sakaling makakabili tayo would be 2023."
Vergeire said that healthcare workers will be prioritized in the first rollout of monkeypox vaccines. She noted in an interview with CNN Philippines last Aug. 1 that not all Filipinos need to be vaccinated against the disease.
"Let me just remind people that this monkeypox is not like COVID-19 that we need to vaccinate all Filipinos to prevent further transmission," Vergeire stated. "Ang monkeypox ay may specific sectors lang tayo, which we identify via a sample which would need this kind of vaccine, like our health workers and other vulnerable sectors."
While the agency has not disclosed the sectors vulnerable to the disease, Vergeire said in Wednesday's interview that this includes those who are immunocompromised or individuals with autoimmune diseases like HIV, AIDS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.
She explained, "Meron po tayong 10% case fatality rate across the globe, and this is because those who are afflicted by this disease, kung kayo po ay immunocompromised at kayo ay tinamaan ng sakit na ito, maari po magkaroon kayo ng komplikasyon at maari niyong ikamatay."
On July 23, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.
According to the Central for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 31,800 cases of monkeypox have been reported from 89 locations around the world as of today. One is from the Philippines.
Vergeire, on the other hand, said that the case has been treated and discharged: "We have isolated the situation, healed symptoms or healed lesions already, was discharged already from isolation with the clearance of the doctor and could already interact with other people."
The health undersecretary, however, stressed that monkeypox spreads not only through sexual intercourse between gay men but also through contact with surfaces or individuals contaminated with the virus.
"Just to clarify, gusto po nating sabihin sa ating mga kababayan, kahit sino puwedeng magkaroon ng monkeypox. Hindi lang isang sector ng lipunan ang puwedeng magkaroon nito kasi iba-iba ang pagkakasalin o pagkakahawa nito," Vergeire said.
"Maaari makuha ito through direct contact kapag nadikit tayo sa lesions ng may monkeypox, makukuha mo po ito. Maari rin makuha niyo ito sa damit o mga bagay na hinawakan ng may monkeypox," she continued. "Maari rin nating makuha through secretions, and this is where sexual contact comes in, na naha-highlight lang po ito sa sector na ito ngayon kasi 95% globally, ang nakikita nila ay through this transmission."