MANILA (UPDATE)— Some 2.5 million people in the country aged 60 and above have yet to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and the rollout of booster jabs is "relatively slow," an official said, as the Philippines faced the threat of the omicron variant.
Around 50.6 million of the country's 109 million people have been fully vaccinated, while some 2.2 million have received booster shots.
"We are still relatively slow sa ating mga pagbo-booster. At the same time, kailangan po natin hanapin at i-vaccinate ang 2.5 million na unvaccinated seniors," vaccination chief Carlito Galvez Jr. told President Rodrigo Duterte in a taped meeting Tuesday that aired on Wednesday.
(We are still relatively slow in our booster distribution. At the same time, we need to find and inoculate 2.5 unvaccinated seniors.)
The elderly are among the most at risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Galvez said government eyes repeating its mass vaccination push, adding, "This time it will be focused on our seniors and also focused on the different areas."
Video courtesy of PTV
In terms of additional vaccine doses, Galvez said, "We just need to remind the key cities which have more than 70 percent to 100 percent vaccination coverage."
"We need to revisit the realities that our people’s protection should be further expanded and enhanced through the administration of boosters," continued the official.
In Metro Manila, Galvez said about 6.5 million vaccinated individuals were no longer fully protected against COVID-19. They were fully vaccinated on or before Sept. 26 last year and are due for booster doses, he said.
"Ang isang malaking challenge po natin ay ma-address po natin ang unwillingness of others to get vaccinated and get their boosters. Kasi po yung iba, kapag nalaman nila na nakadalawang doses na sila, parang ayaw na nilang magpa-boosters," Galvez said.
(Our big challenge is to address the unwillingness of others to get vaccinated and get their boosters. Some seem to no longer want boosters after getting 2 doses.)
The capital region has vaccinated 10.4 million of its 12.6 million eligible population. But Galvez said only 3.8 million individuals, or those who recently received their jabs, remain fully protected against COVID-19.
"Dahil nakikita po natin na may waning effect ang ating mga vaccine, 3.8 million ang ina-assume natin na ito sa ngayon, ito pa ang may malakas na antibodies," he said.
(Because our vaccines have waning effect, we assume that only 3.8 million still have strong antibodies.)
Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles urged other regions in the country to intensify their vaccination efforts to stem the impact of Omicron and other coronavirus variants.
“Let’s take advantage of increasing the vaccination in the regional areas. While we’re seeing a surge here in Metro Manila at yung mga kalapit na probinsya dito (and in nearby provinces), we have to push for more vaccinations happening in the other regions outside of Metro Manila and Calabarzon,” he said.
The Philippines has detected 14 cases of the omicron coronavirus variant that is spreading globally.
On Tuesday, the country reported 5,434 fresh COVID-19 cases and a positivity rate of 26.2 percent, the highest since Sep. 15 last year, amid the threat of the omicron variant.