Expert: XBB.1.5 possible to become dominant variant in PH

Expert: XBB.1.5 possible to become dominant variant in PH

MANILA – The XBB.1.5 subvariant of Omicron, which is a mutation of the BA.2, could be a dominant variant in the country, a health official said Thursday.  

“I think it will be especially now that during the first month of January, the WHO [World Health Organization] reports that the top three fast rising variants or subvariant of Omicron one of that is XBB.1.5,” said infectious disease expert, Dr. Rontgene Solante, in a televised public briefing.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported the first case of XBB.1.5 and three cases of CH.1.1 which were part of the 1,078 samples sequenced by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center on Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.

The DOH is yet to disclose any definite information if the cases are local transmission or from an exposure abroad.

However, the XBB.1.5 is less likely to cause “a significant spike of the increase in cases”, Solante said.

“But, I think mas masapawan na niya ‘yung BA.2 or BA.5 which incidentally, the XBB.1.5 is also coming from BA.2, so nanganak ‘yung BA.2 and nag-mutate to a more transmissible itong tinatawag na XBB.1.5 (it will overwhelm the BA.2 or BA.5 which incidentally, the XBB.1.5 is also coming from BA.2, so the BA.2 mutated to a more transmissible subvariant XBB.1.5),” he added.

The CH.1.1 subvariant has mutation similar to Delta, BA.4 and BA.5.

“We need to monitor this subvariant of the Omicron because of those, it may cause severe cases, but we don’t know yet, that would be possible, but it is important that we monitor the cases that we will be having,” Solante said.

When asked about the best vaccine that could protect the public against XBB.1.1 and CH.1.1, Solante said bivalent vaccines which were developed specifically for the Omicron variant would be more effective.

“Meron na tayong nakikita sa US and Israel na nung ginamit na nila itong bivalent vaccine dun sa mga high risk population gaya ng mga matanda at may mga vulnerabilities o comorbidities, mataas-taas ang protection nito (We’ve seen reports from the US and Israel that when they used these bivalent vaccines on high-risk populations like the elderly, those with vulnerabilities or comorbidities, they get higher protection) against getting the infection,” he said.

The country is set to receive over one million doses of bivalent Covid-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility, the worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, by end of March.

The DOH has planned the rollout of the jabs and the A1 (health care workers), A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (individuals with comorbidities) will be prioritized in line with the conditions that have been agreed upon. (PNA)