MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Friday they have received suggestions to recall and redistribute limited coronavirus jabs from provinces with low infection rates to high-risk areas or those hard-hit by the fresh virus surge.
He identified National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Central Visayas as possible recipients of the vaccine supplies due to the number of cases in those areas.
"May mungkahi si [Marikina City] Mayor Marcy Teodoro na kung puwede ang mga bakuna sa mga lugar na mahina ang uptake [of vaccine] o mababa ang cases, baka pwede dalhin dito sa NCR, 4A, 3, 7 at CAR," Duque told reporters.
(Mayor Teodoro suggested that we may want to redistribute supplies to areas with high number of COVID-19 cases.]
Duque added the vaccines would only be "borrowed."
"Ito’y hihiramin lang, hindi babawiin. Hindi mawawalan sila. Ito ay para makatulong makumpleto ang bakunahan ng ating priority group A," he said.
(We would only borrow it. They won't lose their supply.)
Duque also said some hospitals in the provinces reported low vaccine turnout. Realigning the vaccine supply would prevent wastage, he said.
“May mga ospital na mababa ang uptake. Una, hindi ito sapilitan. Voluntary. Ang iba ayaw pa. Hindi puwedeng maghintay tayo, masasayang ang bakuna. AZ (AstraZeneca) expiry period is May 31. Dapat nang ipagamit,” Duque explained.
(Their are hospitals with low vaccine uptake. We can't wait for them to decide because AztraZeneca jabs, for example, would expire on May 31. We need to use them.)
But the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) voiced their opposition to the proposed vaccine redeployment.
Some local governments are still convincing their health care workers to get vaccinated, said LPP president Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco Jr.
"Hindi pa buo ang aming posisyon, pero ang pananaw namin, kailangan din namin ang mga bakuna. Kung talagang hindi gagamitin, itanong ang mga LGU if they want to return their vaccines,” Velasco told ABS-CBN News.
(We have no official position yet, but we also need vaccines. The LGUs should be consulted about this.)
He then continued, “Iba-iba ang mga sitwasyon ng mga province. Maaaring meron lang hindi nagpapabakuna pero ineengganyo pa. It’s best we ask local chief executives.”
(Situation is different in every province. Some still have supply because their vaccine campaign is still ongoing.)
Velasco added vaccine supply in the provinces is already limited as it is.
"Kakaunti lang din ang binigay na supply sa amin eh, so kulang na kulang pa 'yun. Pero sa iba na may sobra, tanungin na lang sila if they are willing to let go of the vaccines," he explained.
(We have minimal supply to begin with. For others with excess, better ask them if they are willing to let go of the vaccines.)
Velasco urged the national government to consult with local government officials before implementing such plan.
Asked to react to the LPP’s opposition, Duque answered: "Papakiusapan ko. I will try my best, 'yung mga mabababa ang active cases... Papakiusapan na lang na mataas talaga ang kaso sa NCR, nasa kalahati ng total cases natin."
(I will convince them. The NCR is really hard hit by the virus, half of the cases is in the region.)
Duque said he would call LPP as well as the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), the umbrella organization of all local government units, to convince them to agree to the plan.
The Philippines is battling a surge in coronavirus infections that has raised the total tally of cases to 640,984. It has only received over 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccines: 600,000 from China's Sinovac, and 525,600 from AstraZeneca.