IT IS a big slap on the face of Department of Health (DOH) 7 Director Jaime Bernadas when his superiors in the DOH central office disputed his statement that Cebu City’s population had shown signs of herd immunity against the coronavirus. It was a shameful and irresponsible statement on the part of Bernadas.
In an interview with the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav) media bureau on Oct. 14, 2020, which was published in the local dailies and carried by the government-run Philippine News Agency (PNA), Bernadas cited an antibody test conducted around that time among 2,191 vendors at the Carbon Market. The test found 47.48 percent or 1,047 of the vendors, developing the immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody. Antibodies develop in a person’s system following infection and recovery.
In that interview, Bernadas was quoted as saying: “This is very significant because more and more people have now responded to the exposure of the virus, which means we are on the road to achieving ‘herd immunity’.”
Herd or population immunity is a concept in vaccination wherein enough people in a specific area are protected against an infectious disease. In the case of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), DOH said herd immunity could be reached if around 60 percent to 70 percent of the population had been immunized.
But the DOH central office disputed Bernadas statement saying, “Currently, there is not enough evidence to show that those who have recovered from Covid-19 and have developed antibodies are protected from being infected again.”
The DOH said that even if a person has already recovered from Covid-19, he is not exempted from observing the minimum health protocols such as wearing masks, practicing hand hygiene and cough etiquette and physical distancing of at least one meter. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) said that “a strategy of achieving herd immunity without safe and effective vaccine was morally unconscionable and unfeasible.”
WHO further said that “never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It’s scientifically and ethically problematic. Not only would it lead to millions more unnecessary deaths, it would lead to a significant number of people facing a long road to full recovery.”
The WHO said it remains unknown how long a person’s immunity against Covid-19 goes. There have been reports of re-infection in various countries with some patients experiencing a more severe illness the second time around. Look at the case of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Senator Migs Zubiri. They encountered re-infections.
You see that, Director Bernadas? If I were you, I should hide under my chair because of shame. Next time, think it over before you open your mouth. This is the same Bernadas who aggressively introduced the rapid testing for Covid-19 despite warnings from his superiors in the central office and WHO that said rapid test is not reliable and accurate to determine Covid-19 infection as it will just give false negative and false positive results.
This is also the same Bernadas who was to be blamed for the “super delay” of the Covid-19 test results at the early stage of the pandemic.