MANILA - The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday urged local governments to ramp up their COVID-19 vaccination program to meet the 70 percent immunization target by yearend, as the Yuletide holidays near.
In a statement, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the government still aims to reach 70 percent of the country's population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the year.
A Department of Health (DOH) official earlier this week said the target 70 percent would be impossible to meet this year, but said it could be possible by next year's first quarter.
“Now that we have around 40 million doses sent to the provinces, we need to immediately jab these vaccines to the general population; thus we need the LGUs to double their efforts," said Año.
Interior spokesperson Jonathan Malaya earlier in the day said his agency and the DOH have meet with officials from Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and other priority areas about this goal.
Malaya told ABS-CBN News that the meetings started Friday.
Año, meanwhile, said it is important that provinces distribute COVID-19 shots to cities and towns "within 3 days from the date of delivery."
Eligible residents should also be vaccinated not over 2 weeks since the jabs were received in their local government units.
Provinces should also serve as "storage hubs" as there are areas that do not have storage facilities and cold chain requirements "provided that COVID-19 vaccines for first doses are utilized within seven days and on schedule for the second doses," according to the statement.
“Now that we have a steady supply of vaccines, we need to ensure the timely distribution and administration of available vaccines not only to prevent wastage of resources but also to achieve population protection by year-end,” he said.
'ONLY 50 PERCENT CAN BE VACCINATED'
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the country could likely reach 50 percent of immunization target by December.
The 50 percent target, according to the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, represents the "low" threshold, but the "high target" remained at 70 percent.
On Monday night, vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. also told President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting that "more or less 50 percent" of the population may be vaccinated already by the end of December.
The DOH earlier in the day announced expanding its immunization program to all teenagers aged 12 to 17.
As of Monday, the country has so far fully immunized nearly 26.2 million individuals, while at least 30.6 million are partially vaccinated, data from the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed.
Philippine authorities aim to inoculate at least 77 million to achieve population protection against the respiratory illness as more transmissible variants emerge.