DUMAGUETE CITY – Health authorities are ramping up the administration of the Covid-19 bivalent vaccine as all sectors are now qualified to receive the latest dose.

“Sectors A1-A9 may now receive the bivalent vaccine, originally a 3rd booster dose designed specifically to fight the Omicron variant of Covid-19,” Negros Oriental Provincial Health Officer Dr. Liland Estacion on Wednesday said.

Estacion said the provincial health office distributed the bivalent vaccines to the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital (NOPH) and the other private hospitals in this capital city and nearby Sibulan town where walk-ins are accepted.

Previously, the bivalent vaccine was only allowed for health workers and senior citizens who had their second booster, she said.

Now, the Department of Health (DOH) has allowed the bivalent vaccine to be used as a first and second booster for fully-vaccinated individuals, she added.

DOH Region 7 director Dr. Jaime Bernadas, who visited Negros Oriental on Tuesday, appealed to the people to avail of the bivalent vaccines.

He said that regionwide, the Central Visayas provinces have only reached some 9,000 against the target quota of 16,000 doses.

Nationwide, the one million doses of the bivalent vaccine have not also been exhausted yet, he added.

Bernadas said there is plenty of supply of the latest vaccine to fight Covid-19 and replenishment for Negros Oriental is already assured provided the province will use up its allocation.

Estacion said her office could not yet give an updated figure on how many individuals have already been vaccinated with the bivalent dose while awaiting reports from the different hospitals.

On Aug. 3, the official reported that 403 individuals got their booster shots out of the 1,800 bivalent boosters allocated for Negros Oriental.

Meanwhile, the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machine at the NOPH Molecular Laboratory has to be fixed within a week’s time after it broke down, Estacion said.

In the meantime, the swab samples will have to be sent to the DOH laboratory in Cebu City for testing, although Bernadas reassured of a swift release of the results within one day at the earliest.

Some individuals and quarters still require the RT-PCR test instead of the over-the-counter antigen test for specific purposes such as employment and travel, Estacion added. (PNA)