Government needs to ramp up vaccination of the elderly, of which 70 percent are fully vaccinated and 68 percent have received an initial dose, the official heading the program said Monday.
According to Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, head of the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC), the government fell short of its target of 5 million inoculated individuals during the third round of the National Vaccination Days (NVDs).
Some 3.447 million persons or 68.94 percent of the target were administered COVID-19 jabs during the third “Bayanihan Bakunahan” Program, Cabotaje said.
“It’s not because of vaccine hesitancy, some elderly don’t want to get vaccinated because they are close to dying. They don’t understand that if they get infected it would also affect their family,” Cabotaje said in a televised briefing.
“We need to make the process easier…the vaccination faster and its site closer to them. Some find it difficult to go to vaccination sites,” she said.
Cabotaje said around 3 million of the 5-million target were supposedly booster shots, but people do not realize the “urgency” to get the additional dose.
The next rounds of NVDs will be adjusted “by area and by sector” to accommodate workers, she added.
“They don’t want to miss a day’s work or if they experience side effects they will also miss work. We’re looking at possible arrangements,” she said.
Government is also looking into how to ramp up vaccination among the Muslims, particularly in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Cabotaje said.
“It increased during NVDs, so a festive mood might be needed. They say there’s hesitancy because of religious beliefs. If Malaysia and Indonesia, which are Muslim countries, have a high vaccination rate, what can we do in Bangsamoro?” she said.
“Kingdom of Saudi and UAE are among those with highest vaccination rates, these are Muslim countries…We’ve been talking with the imams, minister of health, officials of BARMM, local chief executives,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cabotaje said about 2.4 million senior citizens nationwide were not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019.
Earlier, some local government units conducted door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination and arranged transportation to inoculation sites for senior citizens.
Currently, the NVOC is planning to bring the vaccination centers closer to senior citizens, especially in areas where the inoculation rate of this target population is low.
To focus on areas needing attention, Cabotaje guaranteed the NVOC will work more closely with the senior citizen groups and the LGUs.
“Our senior citizens are important because they are most at-risk and most vulnerable and when they get sick they will occupy the hospitals and have serious disease and are at big risk to die,” she said.
At the same time, Cabotaje said the government would change its strategies to strengthen its national vaccination program against the coronavirus disease 2019.
This, after the third edition of the “Bayanihan, Bakunahan” COVID-19 vaccination drive which ran from February 10 to 18 failed to reach its 5 million target population.
The third wave of the national vaccination drive aims to provide booster shorts for over 3 million individuals or two-thirds of the target population.
“But only 1 million showed up for the booster shots because people don’t see the urgency of receiving it, they know the importance of
vaccines and booster (shots), but they do not understand the urgency,” Cabotaje said.
She added only 19 percent of the senior citizens and 44 percent of healthcare workers have received their booster shots. Both are
priority groups in the national government’s vaccination campaign.
The NVOC has observed many do not want to receive booster shots because they cannot afford to miss a day or two from their work.
It has also seen a brand preference among those registering for booster shots during the last wave of the national vaccination drive.
“We still have a lot of mRNA, Pfizer, AstraZeneca. Many received AstraZeneca and some received Sinovac,” Cabotaje said.