Gov’t to release protocol on vaccine prioritization for Filipinos with comorbidities

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2021 01:09 PM | Updated as of Mar 29 2021 01:59 PM

Video courtesy of Department of Health

MANILA — The protocol on the government's COVID-19 vaccine prioritization for people with comorbidities will be released Monday, the Department of Health said.

“We are finalizing our protocol para mailabas ngayong araw na ito (so it can be released today),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.

The official said this is in line with the plan to simultaneously vaccinate health workers, the elderly and those with comorbidities, allowing government to cover more people at a faster rate.

The simultaneous vaccination is due to the increase in cases and is based on the experience of other countries in ramping up their vaccination rollout, Vergeire said.

There are an estimated 1.8 million health workers, 9 million senior citizens and 14.5 million Filipinos with comorbidities or pre-existing illness in the country.

Vergeire explained that the current vaccines are still not enough, which is why only those with chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, malignancy, diabetes mellitus, and obesity will be prioritized for now.

Dr. John Wong, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force’s technical working group on data analytics, said that while the elderly is 15% less likely to be infected based on existing data, it is probably because they are staying home.

“However, if they get infected, they are 5 times more likely to get severe disease and 10 times more likely to die,” he said, as he explained how the mentioned diseases are more prone to severe COVID-19 or death.

He said it is still unclear if chronic liver disease will be included in the prioritization because there are fewer studies on it. 

Vergeire said they will likely require medical certificates or prescriptions from those with comorbidities who want to be vaccinated.

The health official said that more than 80% of the allocated first doses of COVID-19 vaccines have already been distributed, although she did not release data on the actual number of people vaccinated.

Last week, the government said more than 500,000 have already received first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is about a third of the total number of doses received so far by the Philippines from China and the COVAX Facility.

The government has been criticized for the slow rollout of vaccines, especially amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. These areas have already been placed under enhanced community quarantine until April 4.

The government aims to inoculate up to 70 million Filipinos before the year ends to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus.

As of Sunday, the Philippines' total COVID-19 cases stood at 721,892, of which, 105,568 are active.