MANILA - Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte said Tuesday she was frustrated over the delayed arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, saying this would further delay the reopening of the country's economy.
"I would be lying to say that I'm not frustrated with the delay. We have already planned our vaccine program. We are very, very ready. Kulang na nga lang ang bakuna (What's missing are the vaccines)," she told ANC.
Quezon City aims to vaccinate this year a total of 1.6 million people or 80 percent of its adult population to achieve herd immunity.
Belmonte said they would have to change their vaccine program and rearrange the recipients to be first inoculated. This, after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine was likely to arrive first in the Philippines before the month ends.
State health regulator does not recommend using the Chinese-made jabs to health workers due to low efficacy rate of 50.4 percent.
"I think this will delay reopening up of MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) further because I think it is imperative that the riskiest population should be vaccinated first before we can really talk about reopening of economy," Belmonte said. "So, therefore I think that the greatest consequence of this would be the further delay in reopening the economy."
Belmonte said she was however elated that the national government postponed placing the entire country under the less restrictive modified general community quarantine.
"Relief is an understatement. I was extremely happy to hear about that because, first and foremost, I felt that before we can actually loosened to the extent that this required by the MGCQ, I felt that at least the healthcare workers should be vaccinated first because they're the ones who will bear the brunt of the effects," she told ANC.
Belmonte was among 8 mayors who voted to retain the general community quarantine status in Metro Manila amid the threat of COVID-19 spread.
"To be honest I was one of the 8 mayors that voted to retain GCQ status, albeit I voted for the second category which is slight relaxation of the GCQ protocols," she said.
Nine of the 17 Metro Manila mayors have voted to recommend placing the capital region under the most relaxed quarantine status in March to revive the country's ailing economy.
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte rejected proposals to implement MGCQ nationwide until the country's COVID-19 vaccination program has started.
In the event that the chief executive has decided to further ease quarantine restrictions, Belmonte said the city government was prepared in implementing relaxed protocols.
She was however concerned that reopening the economy sans the vaccine could lead to a spike of COVID-19 infections.
"Based on our data here in Quezon City, most of our cases come from the workplace. People who go to work, bring home the virus and then they infect their entire community, and then what happens is whole household become infected," she said.
As of Feb. 21, Quezon City has recorded 31,912 coronavirus infections, data from the city's health department showed. The city's tally includes 30,150 recoveries, 929 active cases and 833 fatalities.