The government will extend its national vaccination drive to December 3 (Friday) as more than 5 million people have already been inoculated against COVID-19 during the first two days of the three-day campaign that ended yesterday, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
"When we give the battle rhythm to our LGUs, they can continue even without asking us for an extension. But we will announce that we will extend the vaccination program until Friday," vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. said.
“Our running total is 5,000,353 as of Tuesday. We are still hopeful that we will meet the 9 million target. But just in case we will be unable to reach it, this record is already high,” Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje added.
Cabotaje said the country typically administered about 1 million to 1.5 million COVID-19 shots daily.
She said 2,708,018 vaccine doses were given on Monday, the first day of Bayanihan, Bakunahan.
At least 2,290,335 jabs meanwhile were administered the next day, which was a regular holiday for Bonifacio Day, based on reports as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, Cabotaje said. She said this figure is expected to increase as more data comes in.
“Some say the holiday helped because they were able to go to the vaccination sites. But there was also feedback that people worked because it was double-pay. And there were some problems because they were not accommodated during the vaccination time. There were vaccination centers that closed early,” she said in Filipino.
Galvez said on Monday the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 had made the campaign even more important.
Omicron, which the World Health Organization has described as a "variant of concern," has yet to be detected in the Philippines. Its spread has sparked global travel restrictions and rattled financial markets.
The Philippines has been dealing with one of Asia's worst COVID-19 outbreaks and its vaccine rollout has been slower than many neighbors, with just over a third of its 110 million population inoculated.
Vaccination rates are uneven with over 90 percent of the National Capital Region's eligible residents inoculated, compared with 11 percent in the poorest parts of Mindanao.
Cabotaje said some regions increased their vaccination coverage by three to four times during the three-day Bayanihan, Bakunahan.
For example, the Bangsamoro region gave some 42,000 to 59,000 jabs, compared to the 10,000 to 12,000 shots it usually administers. Soccsksargen administered 164,000, up from its previous 50,000 output, Cabotaje said.
Aside from the extension, the government plans another three-day vaccination drive from Dec. 15 to 17, the Palace said.
Cabotaje also said the adult population will be given COVID vaccine boosters "in the next couple of days.” (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
The Philippines is already finalizing guidelines for providing COVID-19 booster shots for all adults, she said.
"The EUA (emergency use authorization) has been approved, we will just finalize the guidelines. In the next couple of days, we will have the boosters for all the 18 years old and above," she added.
The Philippines earlier this month started giving booster shots to health workers, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals.
The Food and Drug Administration approved four vaccine brands as third or booster shots, namely Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and Sputnik Light.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, meanwhile, urged the government to allow booster shots for private sector workers, saying vaccines should not be wasted.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he also agreed with the call of the private sector to allow booster shots to the A4 category made up of workers.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III added that anyone who wanted the vaccine should get it.
In a joint statement, major business organizations, including some of the country’s biggest employers, asked the government to allow the private sector to use the COVID-19 vaccines it purchased as booster shots for its employees and their families.
Also on Wednesday, Cabotaje said the syringes for the Pfizer vaccine procured by the government through the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), will be arriving in tranches starting today (Thursday).
She said this was part of the 44 million syringes ordered three months ago.
The scarcity of Pfizer syringes led the government to reduce its jab target from 15 million doses to 9 million doses for the three-day Bayanihan, Bakunahan.
Cabotaje said these syringes are supposed deliveries of an initial tranche of 2 million on Nov. 22 and another 2 million on Nov. 29 but did not arrive due to the global shortage of ancillary supplies.
Cabotaje clarified the Philippines has only a scarcity of Pfizer syringes, while the supplies for other brands are all available at the vaccination centers.