Vaccination program aims to focus on regions, move away from nationwide operations

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2022 08:17 AM

People receive their COVID-19 jabs during the National Vaccination Days part 4, at the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) headquarters in Quezon City on March 10, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File
People receive their COVID-19 jabs during the National Vaccination Days part 4, at the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) headquarters in Quezon City on March 10, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA—Instead of again mounting a simultaneous nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive, the government will now zero in on areas with low immunization rates, the co-lead of the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) said Friday.

Dr. Kezia Lorraine Rosario said “focused” vaccination days are being planned for specific regions in place of the monthly National Vaccination Days that have been held since November. 

“Ang nakikita ng NVOC, hindi na tayo magkakaroon ng nationwide initiatives na ito gaya ng ‘Bayanihan Bakunahan’. Ang gagawin namin is ’yong special vaccination days. Tinitingnan namin ang mga areas na medyo nahuhuli sa implementation,” Rosario told reporters at a nighttime vaccination drive in Mandaluyong City.

Among the initial areas pinpointed for the focused vaccination drive are parts of Lanao Del Sur, parts of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Cotabato province in Region XII, and Cebu province in Region VII.

BARMM currently has the lowest vaccination rate among regions, with 25.95% or over a quarter of its 3.5 million target population already jabbed.

The NVOC aims to carry out the drive by the end of March or the first week of April depending on the preparation.

Combatting vaccine hesitancy is also a challenge they have to hurdle in areas like Cebu, Rosario said.

“Longer social preparation ang gagawin — kakausapin, having conversations, coordination — para talagang mabakunahan natin at maprotektahan ang lahat ng Pilipino. Focused na po siya ang gagawin, hindi na nationwide,” she said.

Rosario added that while the fourth leg of the National Vaccination Days, which wrapped up on Friday, has administered shots for 95% of its target 1.8 million people, looking for prospective vaccine recipients has already become difficult.

She said the government is continuing its efforts to bring the number of fully vaccinated Filipinos to 70 million by the end of March from the current 65 million. 

“Nakikita din natin na ngayon mas mahirap na kasi last mile na lang. Paunti-unti na lang ang nangangailangan ng first doses,” Rosario said. 

“Ito ang initiative natin na kahit paunti-unti basta mahanap talaga natin sila. OK na ’yon kaysa hindi natin sila mahanap.” 

The fourth “Bayanihan Bakunahan” originally slated from March 10 to 12 had been extended for 6 days to vaccinate more senior citizens, which made up 30% of the total target.

The Philippines has already administered 139.9 million COVID-19 vaccine shots, the NVOC said.

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