The first batch of vaccine donations from China’s Sinovac arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Concerned groups slammed the government’s “unacceptably slow” vaccine rollout, warning of a worrying surge in cases even as the Duterte administration initiated the reimposition of stricter quarantine restrictions to combat mounting Covid-19 infections.
As health authorities scramble to contain the spike in cases, the Philippines marked a grim milestone with the tenth highest number of infections in a single day—by far the highest in Asia since the beginning of the pandemic.
On the vaccine front, there was a glimmer of hope as donations from China arrived, followed by those from the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility under the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI).
Health officials are hoping vaccines will be the route for PH to a return to normal more than a year into the pandemic that has now killed more than 2.8 million people globally and subjected much of humanity to punishing restrictions.
To date, the Philippines has recorded more than 803 thousand infections and 13,435 deaths.
But the country is still struggling with its vaccine drive and health experts from the University of the Philippines OCTA Research Group enthused that the sluggish pace is prolonging the pandemic.
“Vaccines are our best way out of this pandemic . . . however, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow,” OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David pointed out.
“We must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines and using every single vial we have in stock,” David added.
The government has blamed supply problems on its sluggish vaccine rollout, but several local government units (LGUs) are also facing high rates of vaccine hesitancy, even in the face of rising infections.
Several have fallen dramatically short of their vaccine targets after receiving more than 60 percent fewer doses than expected. Not even close to 5 percent of the country’s more than 110 million total population have received one vaccine dose.
By comparison, world leader Israel has already given two shots to more than half of its population, while in the United States close to 16 percent of the population has received both.
Israel said it plans to expand its vaccine campaign to children aged 12 to 15 from May, after a study showed its efficacy for the age group. It is using jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech, which has revealed promising new data showing it was highly effective against the South African variant of the virus that has ravaged that country.
At a government hospital in the suburbs of Manila, one doctor said she is alarmed at how the virus has swept the country—no longer just targeting the elderly and vulnerable.
“It’s caught us by surprise. Our patients now tend to be young, with no pre-existing conditions. The disease hits them hard and a lot of them die,” the doctor said.
She said she has been frustrated to see many of her compatriots ignore face masks and social distancing guidelines and even flood to underground parties.
“I see no difference in people’s behavior. People don’t seem to understand the magnitude of this,” she said. (AI/MTVN)