The government is planning to hire more vaccinators—including dentists—as the country gets ready to inoculate minors aged 12 to 17 against COVID-19, the Department of Health said Thursday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are also doing this in preparation for the administering of booster shots to health care workers and senior citizens, and a third dose to immunocompromised persons.
In an interview on ANC, Vergeire said the pediatric vaccination and the booster shots would mean an additional 10 million people.
“So we are looking at adding more vaccinators, expanding hours of vaccination, and expanding the vaccination sites,” Vergeire said.
She said vaccine supplies for those entitled to receive them should not be a problem.
The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated 25.7 million people against COVID-19, and aims to inoculate at least 77 million to achieve population protection against the respiratory illness as more transmissible variants emerge.
The DOH said Thursday that dentists are now allowed to be vaccinators against COVID-19.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the DOH has coordinated with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and the Philippine Dental Association (PDA).
Cabotaje said the dentists must coordinate with local government units.
“They should be registered… and they must link with the LGU. The supervisor of the dentist is a medical doctor. The doctor, the head of the implementing unit, should know that he has an additional dentist,” she said.
Cabotaje said the DOH has sent funds to various regions for the services of those who have been hired in the vaccination program.
The vaccination of all minors 12 to 17 years old will start on Nov. 3 in the National Capital Region (NCR), while the nationwide implementation will be on Nov. 5, the DOH said Thursday.
“We will have an initial kick-off on Nov. 3, and we are very ready in the NCR,” Cabotaje said.
Cabotaje also said that some areas which are already prepared for the pediatric vaccination may join the NCR in the initial kick-off on Nov. 3.
“By Nov. 5, [we will have] full nationwide implementation [of the program for children] 12 to 17 years old,” she added.
The National Task Force Against COVID-19 said the Philippines expects to vaccinate about 12.7 million adolescents aged 12 to 17.
On the other hand, Cabotaje said the government aims to have fully vaccinated at least 80 percent of the target population by December.
Cabotaje said that non-immunocompromised minors will be vaccinated at regular vaccination sites.
She urged local government units (LGUs) to have separate lanes for minors.Cabotaje said the government will open up 123 hospital-based and non-hospital-based vaccination sites for the vaccination of minors with comorbidities nationwide on Friday.
A total of 23,727 minors with comorbidities have already been vaccinated.
At the same time, the DOH is pushing efforts toget more seniors vaccinated, as only 56 percent of the elderly population has been fully vaccinated.
Government data showed on Wednesday that about 3.78 million senior citizens or 45.91 percent of the population have received their first dose of a vaccine while 4.64 million (56.22 percent) have completed their vaccine series.
Cabotaje said the number of fully vaccinated seniors was higher due to use of the single-shot Janssen vaccine.
Aside from seniors, who are considered most vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infection, vaccination numbers among the poor population must also be increased, Cabotaje said.
Only 4.41 million or 34.19 percent of the poor population have received their first dose while 2.83 million or 21.99 percent have been fully vaccinated as of October 27.
Meanwhile, 6.42 million individuals with comorbidities or 71.19 percent have received one dose while 7.21 million or 80.01 percent have been fully vaccinated.
A total of 1.61 million frontline health workers or 98.50 percent have been vaccinated.
For the rest of the adult population, around 1.16 million individuals have received one dose while 323,412 have been fully vaccinated.
The Philippines has so far tallied 26.47 million fully vaccinated citizens.
Also on Thursday, the Philippines hit the 100 million mark in vaccine arrivals as more jabs arrived from the United Kingdom and the United States.
The country received 896,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines Thursday afternoon while another shipment of 976,950 doses of Pfizer arrived on Wednesday night.
The latest Pfizer shipment is part of the 2,927,340 Pfizer vaccine doses scheduled to arrive this week.
The Pfizer vaccines procured by the Philippine government landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport – Terminal 3 around 9 p.m. on board Air Hong Kong flight LD-456 while the AstraZeneca shipment arrived at Terminal 1 via Nippon Airways flight NH-8595 and was donated by the Japanese government.
The latest vaccine delivery will be used to inoculate minors across the country.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said the bulk of the supply will be allocated for the nationwide rollout of the pediatric vaccination, which begins on Nov. 3.