Challenges in supply of vaccines against COVID-19 plus the General Community Quarantine in Metro Manila are certain to push back the vaccination timeline in the country, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Thursday.
This means the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program will take three to five years because of the challenges and the availability of services, Galvez said.
He said the Philippines would usually manage only five million vaccinations annually under its immunization program.
At the same time, mayors of Metro Manila want the COVID-19 lockdown over the region’s 12 million people to remain enforced through the holidays, Galvez added.
The local chief executives are “very cautious” about downgrading the region’s current general community quarantine status, the 3rd strictest of four lockdown levels, he said.
Metro Manila, which accounts for about a third of the country’s gross domestic product, has been under GCQ since August, with stricter lockdowns enforced in earlier months as COVID-19 infections rose.
Only select businesses are allowed to operate at full capacity in GCQ areas.
Meanwhile, the private sector is buying up to 3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to augment the government’s vaccine drive, one of the country’s presidential advisers said.
In a statement, Go Negosyo founder and presidential adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said around 1.5 million people would benefit from this initiative.
“We’re targeting 2.5 million to 3 million doses which will help 1.5 million people in the upper end of the range since the vaccine requires two doses. We want to ensure that the Philippines will not be left behind when the vaccines come out in 2021,” Concepcion said.
Frontline health workers both in the public and private sectors, senior citizens, and poor Filipinos are among those to be prioritized to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under the current proposal of the government, an official from the Department of Health said.
DOH Bureau of International Health Cooperation’s Dr. Aleli Annie Sudiacal said that while the goal was to have every Filipino inoculated, the first part of the program proposes to cover only some 24.7 million Filipinos.
They are the ones covered in the top five priority groups.
In her presentation to Congress, Sudiacal said the country’s 1,762,994 frontline health workers are the first priority for the coronavirus vaccine, once available.
· private and public health workers working in treatment and rehabilitation centers, COVID-19 treatment and monitoring facilities, hospitals (612,975)
· other public health workers, like those in rural, city and provincial health offices, those on the field, and local government contact tracers (602,982)
· barangay health workers including BHERTS (414,640)
· other frontline workers in other national government agencies, like DSWD, DepEd, DILG, BJMP and Bureau of Corrections (132,397)
Around 3,789,874 indigent senior citizens, described as one of the most vulnerable, are prioritized second, she said.
Senior citizens not under the indigent category, around 5,678,544, are the third priority group for the vaccine.
The 12,911,193 remaining of the indigent population are the fourth in the priority eligible groups.
The fifth priority group are the government’s 525,523 uniformed personnel, including from the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III Galvez will decide together which vaccine will be acquired for inoculation.
Duque, in an interview on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, said he would support Galvez’s decision on which vaccine to purchase as it was not advisable to acquire only one brand because of limited supplies.
“We will purchase vaccines from various manufacturers so we can fill up our needs,” said Duque.
Duque said a consensus would be formed between the DOH and the NTF, adding that a process has been laid out for choosing an available vaccine.
“The vaccine roadmap has many stages. One person won’t be able to decide by himself. This decision is heavy so the best solution is consensus building,” Duque also said.
The Philippines logged on Thursday 1,392 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 424,297, after nine laboratories failed to submit their data, the Department of Health reported.
Top cities and provinces with highest new cases are Caloocan City, 77; Cavite, 73; Laguna, 73; Davao City, 62; and Quezon Province, 60.
There are 28,789 active cases, which is 6.8 percent of the total number of cases.
There are 328 persons who recovered, bringing the total to 387,266 recoveries , which is 91.3 percent of the total.
The DOH also reported 27 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 8,242, which is 1.94 percent of the total.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the country is generally decreasing, especially in Metro Manila, the spokesperson of the Department of Health said on Thursday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in an interview on GMA News TV’s Balitanghali, said the department was also seeing some increase in various areas of the country.
Earlier, an expert from the University of the Philippines-OCTA Research team said the number of new COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region increased by 6 percent but the virus’ reproduction number in the country remained below one.