Govt to tap drug stores as jab sites, deploy doctors to unvaxxed areas
The government is hoping to enlist pharmacies and drugstores to administer COVID-19 vaccines, and doctors are being deployed to unvaccinated communities to convince people to get their jabs as the number of cases outside of Metro Manila begin to rise sharply.
In an interview on radio dzBB, Dr. Ted Herbosa, medical adviser to the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 said they met with private drugstores and pharmacies last week, and could do a trial run in which the government would supply the vaccines to them.
This would address a shortage of vaccinators at vaccination centers, many of whom have had to go back to their hospitals whose personnel are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, an official of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines said doctors are being deployed to communities with a large number of unvaccinated people in the provinces to explain the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
ULAP president and Quirino Gov. Dakila Cua, interviewed on radio dzBB, said that barangay captains were identifying those who still refuse to get vaccinated in their respective jurisdictions but noted that they were difficult to convince.
Regions outside Metro Manila have just started to experience a sharp increase in new infections, the independent OCTA Research Group said Sunday, adding that it believes COVID-19 cases in the Philippines would not reach their peak “any time soon.”
OCTA fellow Guido David, in an interview with ABS-CBN News’ TeleRadyo, said the new COVID-19 surge is no longer contained in the National Capital Region (NCR) and its surrounding provinces.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think cases in the entire Philippines will peak any time soon because the surge has just started to accelerate in many parts of the country,” David said in Filipino.
David cited Cebu City and Tacloban City, which reported record-high new infections on Saturday, at 393 and 108, respectively.
“The surge is no longer just in NCR Plus. It’s now all over the Philippines, and it won’t peak in the entire Philippines even if, for instance, we say that cases have peaked in the NCR,” he said.
The Philippines logged on Sunday 37,154 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 3,205,396, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
The country’s positivity rate was at 47.4 percent based on 81,381 tests conducted on Jan. 14.
There were 50 new deaths reported, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 52,907.
The DOH also reported 30,037 new recoveries bringing the total recoveries to 2,864,633.
There were 287,856 active cases, of which 9,212 were asymptomatic; 273,924 were mild; 2,940 were moderate; 1,475 were severe; and 305 were critical.
Nationwide, 49 percent of ICU beds, 48 percent of isolation beds, 51 percent of ward beds, and 21 percent of ventilators, are in use.
In Metro Manila, 57 percent of ICU beds, 50 percent of isolation beds, 66 percent of ward beds, and 28 percent of ventilators, are in use.
Herbosa said the government is looking for alternatives to continue the vaccination in the Philippines despite the lack of vaccinators and increasing COVID-19 cases to accommodate those who have yet to receive their primary jabs or booster shots.
Based on the Department of Health’s (DOH) national COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, 58,765,384 people have already received their first dose against COVID-19 as of Saturday.
Of this number, 55,093,311 have completed their doses, while 4,765,771 have received their booster shots after reaching the three- to six-month requirement.
Herbosa said there is enough vaccine supply in the country, noting that a total of 210 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in the Philippines as of December 2021.
The government is planning to start the inoculation of minors aged 5 to 11 against COVID-19 in the first week of February.
For his part, Cua said some local government units send doctors to unvaccinated communities to try to explain that vaccines can prevent severe infection against COVID-19.
“At least the unvaccinated are being identified. We send doctors to far-flung areas to explain [vaccination] to them. The unvaccinated can ask about the vaccines and its effectivity,” said Cua.
Local government units have been formulating strategies to restrict the movement of unvaccinated people in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order.
David said it was possible that NCR had already reached its peak and that new cases are decreasing.
But he does not discount the possibility that the region is now at its COVID-19 testing limit.
“We’ll find out what’s really happening [in] the next few days. if the number of new cases won’t go down from 17,000 to 18,000, it means that maybe there are increasing infections, but we just don’t see it,”said David.
David’s statement comes a day after the Department of Health (DOH) said the growth of new cases in Metro Manila has slowed down.
On Twitter, David said 18,422 new cases were reported in Metro Manila, while the growth rate of the seven-day average in the region was at 2 percent.
The DOH projects that COVID-19 cases in the country would peak by the end of January or early February.
OCTA expects the Philippines to report around 41,000 new cases on Sunday or Monday, David said.