Philippines misses vaccination targets on elderly, adults with comorbidities

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2021 02:55 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2021 03:08 PM

Conchita Granada, 85, holds onto her daughter before receiving her first dose of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine against COVID-19 during a house to house vaccination, in Manila on May 21, 2021. Lisa Marie David, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippines missed its target of vaccinating one-fifth of senior citizens and people with comorbidities since it started its inoculation drive in March, a health expert consulted by the government's pandemic task force said Wednesday.

In a town hall forum organized by the Department of Health, Dr. John Wong said the government fell short of its COVID-19 vaccination target for those belonging in the A2 and A3 categories.

"If we're targeting to vaccinate 70 percent of the population by December... in the 3-month period, we should have vaccinated about 21 percent," he said.

Wong, a member of the IATF technical working group on data analytics said that apart from supply issues, vaccine hesitancy hampered the country's aim of achieving herd immunity.

"So, we're doing well with health workers but not so good with seniors and persons with comorbidities," the epidemiologist said.

Government figures showed that 1.4 out of 1.55 million health workers or 90 percent already received the anti-coronavirus jab. 

Meanwhile, only 1.3 out of 9.4 million senior citizens or 14 percent were vaccinated so far. More than 1.1 out of 14.5 million people with comorbidities or 8 percent were inoculated against the respiratory illness.

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In a March 2021 surveyl, it was found that bout 6 in 10 Filipinos were reluctant to get vaccinated. In the Pulse Asia poll with 2,400 adult respondents, some 61 percent "do not want to get any COVID-19 vaccine— sentiment shared by majorities across geographic areas and socio-economic groupings." 

In a separate DOH survey involving 43,000 participants, respondents cited possible side effects of the vaccine, negative information on social media, and doubts on its efficacy as their top 3 reasons for hesitating to be jabbed against COVID-19, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press conference.

During the forum, Wong, also founder of health research institution EpiMetrics, Inc., bared that 50 percent of the vaccine recipients failed to come back for their second dose.

Some 1 out of 2.1 million vaccinees have missed their second dose after being expected to receive the shot after 8 weeks.

"Half of the people who have taken their first dose are missing their second dose. So, we need to follow up on this," he said.

Wong also reported that vaccination rate by region varied, with the capital region leading the pack, followed by CAR and Cagayan Valley.

However, he noted that not all areas under the so-called NCR Plus are "vaccinating rapidly enough". He didn't mention what areas are lagging in the inoculation drive.

"You see some regions who are prioritized in terms of supply but have been underperforming in terms of vaccination rate. They're not vaccinating rapidly enough to maximize their increased supply," Wong said.