Slow vaccine rollout? Gov't strategies are working, NTF tells World Bank

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2022 10:44 PM

Health workers ABS-CBN News/file
Health workers from the Manila Health Department (MHD) administer COVID-19 vaccine on minors and senior citizens at the newly renovated Manila Zoo on January 19, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - The government National Task Force Against COVID-19 on Saturday told the World Bank that the country's strategies to implement its vaccination rollout is working, just as it admitted challenges in the program. 

In a statement, vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the rampage of Typhoon Odette last month and the ongoing preparations of localities for the national elections have affected the Philippines' COVID-19 vaccination program. 

The Philippines though failed to fully inoculate at least 54 million of its target population by the end of last year. This is the government's low-end target. The country started its vaccination program on March 1, 2021. 

"The Philippine government remains committed, more than ever, to vaccinate all qualified Filipinos against COVID-19 amidst the challenges we continue to face," said Galvez. 

"The strategies it has implemented since March 2021 to carry out this massive and unprecedented vaccination rollout have proven to be effective not only in scaling up the vaccination capacities of our local government units, but also in increasing vaccine acceptance among our countrymen," he added. 

The World Bank report published last week said the country's vaccination "continued to lag behind regional peers." 

It added that the country's "slower vaccination and higher mobility" during the holidays might be the reason behind the surge of infections most likely driven by the omicron variant. 

World Bank also said the country recorded "higher cases per capita than other Asean countries, as of Jan. 11."

While the task force admitted this, it told World Bank that it should also understand the need to "balance" health and economy. 

The NTF added that there are factors that should be considered regarding the issues raised by the international lending organization, including the country's geography. 

"Many of our neighbors in the region do not share the same challenges that we have, such as our country’s unique geographical landscape being an archipelago of around 7,640 islands wherein delivering the vaccines to far-flung communities can be a major logistical challenge, or being frequently hit by typhoons which leave behind a swath of destruction in their aftermath," the statement read. 

The National Vaccination Operations Center said at least 96,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were destroyed after Odette's onslaught in Visayas and Mindanao. 

To expand the country's inoculation program, the government tapped drugstores and clinics to administer COVID-19 booster shots for now. 

POPULATION PROTECTION

Earlier in the day, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the government aims to achieve population protection from the virus, instead of herd immunity.

"Herd immunity, hindi muna pinag-uusapan, when you talk about herd immunity, you are talking about 90 to 95 percent ng population vaccinated para ma-achieve natin yan," Vergeire explained. 

"We know there are specific sectors sa society, [11] years old hind pa allowed, ang target natin ngayon is population protection, 90 percent of our target except for those 11 years old below." 

Nearly 57 million individuals have been fully vaccinated from COVID-19, data gathered by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed. 

A total of 59.6 million individuals, on the other hand, have received their first dose, while almost 6 million others already got their boosters. 

The vaccination drive currently covers health workers, the elderly, people with comorbidities, essential workers, indigents, and teens as young as 12 years old. 

Health authorities also plan to start the vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 by the first week of February. 

Daily coronavirus infections have hit record highs several times this month, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, prompting a tightening of mobility curbs. This week, the Philippines started a ban on unvaccinated people from public transport.

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