COMMUTERS wait for available public transport along Taft Avenue in Manila. — PHILIPPINE STAR / MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

FILIPINOS should get booster shots after the Philippines confirmed its first cases of the Omicron subvariant XBB and XBC variant of the coronavirus, according to health experts.

Infections would probably increase in the coming weeks, Rontgene M. Solante, a member of the Health department’s technical advisory group, told ABS-CBN Teleradyo on Wednesday.

Areas where the XBB subvariant and XBC variant were detected had low vaccination rates and booster uptake, he added.

“That’s already a sign that if you have a low booster uptake, there is a higher risk that cases may increase, and mutated strains may appear.”

The Department of Health (DoH) on Tuesday said it had detected 81 cases of the new Omicron XBB subvariant and 193 cases of the XBC variant, which is said to be a recombinant of the Delta and BA.2 variants.

While the Omicron XBB subvariant has been the primary cause of fresh spikes in infections in Singapore, there was not enough evidence that the sublineage causes a more severe illness, it said. 

Filipinos should not be complacent because the country’s booster uptake is quite low, Mr. Solante said. “We can expect cases to increase in the coming weeks. We need to keep vaccinating, keep giving booster doses and of course wear face masks.”

Filipino should get vaccinated instead waiting for so-called bivalent vaccines, which are designed to target both the original coronavirus strain and Omicron subvariants, Nina G. Gloriani, head of the Philippine vaccine expert panel told the radio station.

“It’s important to raise our level of immunity. Boosters help with that,” she said. Evidence shows that boosters raise antibodies and T-cells, which are effective against severe forms of the coronavirus, she added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza