MANILA — The National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) said on Thursday it received more reports of wasted COVID-19 shots after typhoon Odette wreaked havoc in the central and southern Philippines.
The health department earlier this week said around 100 vials of Pfizer COVID-19 were wasted after Odette knocked down power lines in Iloilo.
"We are recording more wastage… We had to discard several na hindi tayo sure kung safe pa ba ibigay or not," said NVOC's Dr. Kezia Lorraine Rosario, when asked if the typhoon left more vaccine doses unusable.
(We had to discard several vaccines because we were uncertain if they were still safe to administer.)
Teams that checked storage facilities are due to return to the capital on Thursday and authorities hope to consolidate figures on vaccine wastage in the afternoon, Rosario said in a televised press briefing.
She said vaccines could be considered wasted if they were submerged in floodwaters, their storage lost power for more than 4 hours, or their label was peeled off.
"Talagang priority is iyong safety pa rin ng ating mga bakuna... Kung talagang hindi na kayang i-save, okay na lang po. We do not want to compromise din iyong safety na mabigay natin ‘to sa mga constituents na hindi natin ma-ensure na okay pa ‘yong bakuna," Rosario said.
(Our priority is the safety of our vaccines. If they can no longer be saved, it's okay. We do not want to compromise the safety we give to our constituents if we cannot ensure that the vaccine is still okay.)
The Philippines has fully immunized nearly 45.3 million people against the respiratory disease, as of Dec. 22, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
A total of 192,344,945 doses of different vaccine brands have been delivered to the country from Feb. 28 to Dec. 21 this year.
The government aims to achieve complete vaccination for 54 million people before the end of December, 77 million by the first quarter of next year, 90 million by the second quarter, and the rest of population by the third quarter.
The widening vaccination coverage in the country has been cited as key reason for the decline in new infections observed since October.
As of Wednesday, the Philippines has 9,238 active COVID-19 cases, of which 377 are critical and 1,801 are severe. The country's total confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic stood at 2,837,784.
Odette last week prevented several regions from joining the second run of a mass vaccination drive that aimed to cover 7 million people.
The program inoculated 6,404,622 people from Dec. 15 to 22, said Rosario, adding that the figure could rise as power and communication lines are restored in Odette-stricken areas.
Earlier this week, President Rodrigo Duterte placed 6 regions under a state of calamity due to Odette, which brought heavy rains late last week, shredded homes, and left hundreds dead.