With the continuous arrival of millions of COVID-19 vaccines, Malacanang vowed to ramp up the government’s vaccination efforts to inoculate at least 1.5 million a day before Christmas.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said at least 25.7 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while the National Capital Region (NCR) has already vaccinated 75 percent of its target population.
He said the government has already administered a total of 55,715,693 COVID-19 shots as of Oct. 24, including about 30 million first jabs.
Roque also said more vaccines have arrived in the country, including three shipments of Pfizer vaccines that were donated by the United States through the COVAX Facility.
More than 10 million doses target of total COVID-19 vaccines were delivered to the Philippines in October, while more than 10 million procured Pfizer vaccines are expected to arrive, plus 5 million Moderna vaccines, 10 million Sinovac vaccines, and 5.9 million more doses from the US through COVAX.
Roque said there would be enough COVID-19 jabs to supply the provinces, improve access to, and hasten the pace of vaccination.
He said the administration was working with local government units and the private sector to use malls as vaccination sites and to offer drive-through vaccination centers.
Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the private sector can loan to the national government unused COVID-19 vaccines that are expiring to avoid waste.
Vergeire said such a policy has already been approved.
“If they have vaccines that are nearing expiration, they can loan them to the government. The vaccines would be replaced when the time comes that they would need it,” she said.
Through the loan policy, the national government was able to collect 356,000 doses of US-made Moderna vaccine from the private sector.
These doses, Vergeire said, have been distributed to Region 4-A (Calabarzon) and Region 3 (Central Luzon).
Vergeire also said the DOH is awaiting the recommendations of an advisory committee before COVID-19 booster shots are offered to the vulnerable population.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 will meet Thursday to discuss the proposal, she added.
Earlier, some infectious diseases specialists recommended that the government use the near expiry shots procured by the private sector as boosters or additional doses to health care workers, senior citizens and persons with comorbidities, warning these could just go to waste.
Over the weekend, the Philippines received its 100th shipment of COVID-19 vaccines consisting of 3 million doses of Sinovac jabs from China.
Of this shipment, 1 million doses were donated by the Chinese government while 2 million were procured by the Philippine government.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. highlighted the significance of the 100th vaccine shipment to the national vaccination program.
“Remember that the first vaccine arrival in the country was also a donation from China. That’s Feb. 28,” Galvez said.
To date, China has donated a total of 3 million vaccine doses to the Philippines.
Aside from China’s donation of 1 million CoronaVac vaccines in February, it also shipped 1 million doses of Sinopharm vaccines to the country in August 2021.
A total of 44.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccines have so far been delivered to the country, of which 41.6 million were procured by the national government.
“This demonstrates the kind of friendship from the Chinese government and Chinese people to the Philippine government and Philippine people,” said Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian during the latest shipment arrival on Sunday.
“We hope that vaccines from China will further contribute to bringing further down the cases here and bring back the normalcy,” the ambassador added.
With 724,294 COVID-19 jabs administered last Friday, the NTF urged local government units to further ramp up their vaccination throughput to achieve a daily jab rate of 1 million to 1.5 million.
“Our goal is for LGUs to inoculate 70 percent of their eligible population with at least one dose by November. We cannot scale up our national vaccination output if we just settle with our current jab rate,” Galvez said.
He said local government units need not buy vaccines as the country already has a sufficient stockpile.
Galvez made this statement in reaction to the accusation of House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez who said that the national government has been “sitting” on the vaccine procurement applications of LGUs.
“The country has been receiving an average of 1 million COVID-19 vaccines daily since the start of October. And once we receive them, they are immediately deployed to LGUs and other implementing units throughout the country. There is no time wasted,” Galvez said.
He noted that the country currently has 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in its national warehouses that are ready for distribution, while there are 40 million doses that are due for administration.
“As I have been telling our LGUs over the past several weeks, vaccine supply is no longer a problem for our country. Our main concern at this point is how to get these COVID-19 jabs into the arms of as many Filipinos as quickly as possible,” Galvez said.
He also said the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines continues to increase, as the country has received a total of 23,353,750 doses this month alone as of Oct. 22, with 8,843,065 doses administered.
Galvez said that out of the 94,678,340 doses that have arrived in the country since February, 58,723,760 were purchased by the national government, 24,330,280 were donations from the COVAX facility, 7,983,160 were purchased by LGUs and the private sector, and 3,641,140 were donated by partner countries.
In other developments:
* The Metro Manila Center for Health Development and the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital will be conducting “catch-up vaccinations” against COVID-19 for senior citizens, the DOH said on Monday. Senior citizens may go to these facilities every Tuesday and Thursday, the department said.
* Some 9,928 minors with comorbidities have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the DOH said on Monday.
* Senator Francis Tolentino said the DOH can require parents to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19 under Republic Act No. 10152 or the “Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act.”
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