The government on Friday said private companies that had bought COVID-19 vaccines that have expired knew what to do with them as early as October last year.
Meanwhile, the Philippines recorded 4,127 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the highest daily tally in more than five months, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
The latest daily tally was the highest since 4,575 cases were reported on February 10. Also, active cases further increased to 32,637 from 29,897 on Thursday.
At that time, the DOH said the private sector was given the option of donating its vaccines directly to local government units.
It noted that the law allows chief medical officers of private companies to make their own vaccine recipient lists and implement steps that could expedite vaccine deployment and avoid expiry.
Data from the Zuellig Pharma Cold Chain Warehouse show that beginning Dec. 19, 2021, the private sector received 12.4 million AstraZeneca and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses procured through government mechanisms, with expiry dates in July and August 2022.
At the time these private sector-procured vaccines came in, there were 8.1 million working Filipinos—economic frontliners — who were due for their first booster. This demand grew to as high as 14 million economic frontliners as of July 26, 2022, the DOH statement said.
Even if all the economic frontliners due for first boosters were given their company shots in December, there would still be around 1.6 million workers waiting for their first boosters after all near-expiring private doses have been consumed, it added.
The DOH recommended that the private sector continue to coordinate with DOH Centers for Health Development (CHDs) and LGUs regarding their COVID-19 vaccination strategies and plans to use their COVID-19 vaccine supplies.
The former presidential adviser on entrepreneurship, Joey Concepcion, said the private sector would continue to buy vaccines, if needed, despite its frustration over P5.1 billion worth of expiring doses.
He said 4.2 million vaccine doses are set to expire on July 31, but the private sector could do nothing about it after spending billions of pesos on them.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the government is continuously reviewing the current COVID-19 alert levels.
The Palace has kept the COVID Alert Level 1 on July 19 until the end of July and said this would remain in place until the Department of Health comes up with a new classification by mid-August.
During his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, President Marcos vowed that there will no longer be lockdowns due to COVID-19.
The DOH said Thursday that Metro Manila is now classified as a “moderate risk” for COVID-19 following an increase in cases.
The National Capital Region’s average daily attack rate (ADAR), or the number of new cases over a two-week period divided by its population, was at 7.25 cases per 100,000 population, the DOH said.
The Philippines overall is still classified as “low risk” for coronavirus cases due to “low risk” health care utilization, despite all regions showing rising cases in the last one and two weeks, the DOH said.
There is a “continued slow incline” in intensive care unit admissions but the utilization remains “low risk” at 21 percent, Health Undersecretary Beverly Ho said.
“Our severe and critical cases remain below 1,000 since mid-March. There aren’t as many hospital admissions as there are new cases,” she said.
The country has an ADAR of 2.43 cases per 100,000 population and a 14.8 percent positivity rate, up from last week’s 12.5 percent, Ho said.
The entry of more transmissible Omicron subvariants BA.5, BA.4, and BA.2.12.1 is a factor in the country’s continuously rising virus infections, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said.
The public’s increased mobility, waning immunity, and lower compliance to health standards also contribute to the rise in cases, Vergeire said.