MANILA – The Philippines has breached the six million mark in terms of total coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine shots administered nationwide.
National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said as of June 7, the government has already administered a total of 6,096,208 jabs to priority groups A1 (health care workers), A2 (senior citizens), A3 (persons with comorbidities), and A4 (economic front-liners).
Galvez said 1,604,260 individuals have been fully vaccinated or have received both doses.
“Despite the reduced output in the country’s seven-day moving average due to a lack of vaccine supply in late May and early June, the Philippines was still able to hit the six million mark ahead of its initial target and is expected to gain further momentum in the coming weeks with the arrival of more vaccine shipments,” he said in a news release issued on Wednesday.
“This shows that the vaccination sites being run by our local government units are capable of vaccinating at an accelerated rate if they are provided with sufficient vaccine supplies. We expect to further ramp up our inoculation once our partners in the private sector will roll out their vaccination campaign.”
A total of 11,058,000 doses are expected to arrive this June wherein 5.5 million will come from Sinovac, a million of Sputnik V, 250,000 doses from Moderna, and 2,280,000 of Pfizer-BioNTech and 2,028,000 of AstraZeneca from the COVAX Facility, Galvez said.
Initial tranches of these shipments have already been confirmed. Sinovac’s one million CoronaVac doses arrived last Sunday, while another one million doses are expected to arrive separately on June 10 and 17.
COVAX has confirmed the delivery of a large shipment of Pfizer doses on June 10 and 11 with 2,280,000 doses. It also announced the delivery of AstraZeneca doses to the country in the third week of June, with 2,028,000 doses, though schedules might still change depending on the availability of supplies from the facility.
Moderna has also confirmed its delivery on June 21 of which 55,000 doses will be allocated to the private sector and 195,000 doses for the government.
Flexibility on vaccine rollout
As the Philippines begins to inoculate economic front-liners and essential workers under priority group A4, local government units (LGUs) are given the flexibility to implement the vaccination for this sector due to its huge population.
However, Galvez said all LGUs must work under the supervision of their respective Department of Health regional directors and comply with the guidelines set by the national government.
“The guidelines for the vaccination of A4 and A5 are already in place. It gives the LGUs the leeway to implement it. In case they have enough vaccines, hindi na sisinuhin, basta may maibigay na ID (they won’t be asked so long as they have an ID card),” he said during an online interview on Tuesday.
“Pero once kulang ang vaccine (if the vaccine is not enough), based on protocol, uunahin nila ang 40 years old and above (those 40 years old and above would be prioritized),” Galvez added.
This policy, he said, is based on science, as experts noted that the population belonging to the 40 years and above age bracket are more vulnerable to the disease.
Galvez noted that simplifying the guidelines in the vaccine rollout, such as the prioritization based on age and expansion of the definition of the A4 category to include all workers from private, government, as well as informal sector and self-employed, would help ensure the efficient implementation of the program.
Vaccine rollout timeline
He said the government is eyeing to vaccinate 25 million to 30 million individuals with the first dose by end of August.
He is confident that the country would be able to administer the first shot for all individuals under the A4 category by mid-September or early October.
In the expanded definition of the A4 category, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said 35.5 million Filipinos belong to this category.
Approximately 13 million workers are from NCR+8 (Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao), while 22.5 million are from other parts of the country.
However, Galvez explained that the 35.5 million individuals under priority group A4 are “overlapping” with other priority groups A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with comorbidities).
He said the target would be feasible, as vaccine deliveries are expected to arrive in bigger volumes beginning this month.
More than 10 million doses are arriving this June; 11 million doses in July; 17 million doses in August; and 15 million to 20 million doses in September.
Galvez said with the steady arrival of these vaccines, the government could gradually and substantially increase its inoculations per day.
The government, he added, is preparing to increase the number of vaccination sites to 5,000 in the country as vaccine supplies increase with the capacity to administer at least 100 jabs per site.
Galvez said the move aims to increase the nation’s daily vaccination rate and quickly reach its target of administered jabs.
These sites include mega vaccination centers that can accommodate at least 1,000 individuals at a time, regular vaccination sites that could inoculate 300 to 500 persons a day, and community vaccination centers that could administer 100 jabs daily.
Galvez said LGUs would be assisted by the private sector in the setting up of these mega vaccination centers. Other national agencies, such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Philippine Coast Guard, could also help through their hospital units with significant medical personnel from their ranks.
He said arenas, gymnasiums, hotels, malls, and other private-owned facilities are being converted into vaccination centers that could be used by the LGUs and private sector. (PNA)