MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday rejected a proposal to allocate most of the Philippines' COVID-19 vaccines to the capital region and its nearby areas where cases remain high.
The OCTA research group earlier said the National Capital Region, Calabarzon and Central Luzon should get about 90 percent of COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the Philippines.
"Sa tingin namin, hindi ito posible dahil kailangan din natin bigyang pansin ang ibang rehiyon sa ating bansa," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press conference.
(We think this is not possible because we also have to give attention to other regions in the country.)
While Metro Manila remains to be the epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines, the DOH is monitoring surges in Zamboanga, Baguio, and General Santos, she said.
"Tiningnan natin 'yung variant na nakakaapekto ngayon sa ating bansa," said Vergeire.
(We looked at the variants which might be affecting the situation in the country.)
"Last Saturday, kausap natin ang Philippine Genome Center at nag-eextract na sila [ng samples from these areas]."
(Last Saturday, we spoke to the Philippine Genome Center and they said they are already extracting samples from those areas.)
Vergeire said they expect to find out next week if foreign variants - which are more contagious and can get past the immune system - are prompting the surge in cases in the regions.
At least 70 percent of the Philippines' COVID-19 cases in 2021 were from the NCR, Calabarzon and Central Luzon, according to data from the OCTA Research Group.
This translates to a P1.12 billion in economic losses, the group said in its May 24 bulletin.
"A national (vaccination) rollout program based solely on population, regardless of risk levels of each province or LGU (local government unit), will delay pandemic and economic recovery in the country due to global supply chain issues," it read.
"The goal, therefore, is to vaccinate 45 to 50 percent of the population in high risk areas, 30 to 40 percent of the population in moderate high risk areas, and 20 to 30 percent of the population in moderate risk areas."
So far, the Philippines has been vaccinating about 168,000 people per day, Vergeire said, noting that the national government is eyeing to increase the daily number to 500,000 as more jabs arrive.
As of Saturday, 949,939 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, while 3,147,486 have received their first dose, according to data from the DOH.
The country needs to inoculate at least 58 million people to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.