Government eyes millions vaccinated for COVID-19 in 3-5 years

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Government eyes millions vaccinated for COVID-19 in 3-5 years
This file handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against COVID-19, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
AFP / Russian Direct Investment Fund, Handout

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration on Tuesday said it is targeting to have 60 to 70 million Filipinos vaccinated against the coronavirus in three to five years, with some 35 million already identified as priority for inoculation. 

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the country's vaccine czar, said in a Laging Handa briefing that mass vaccination could begin at "best case scenario" by mid-2021. 

But, he has also said that the more realistic picture could be by the end of next year or early 2022. 

"We will do this in a 3 to 5-year period because we can only vaccinate around 20 to 30 million a year," he said in mixed English and Filipino. 

Galvez added that negotiations with China's Sinovac, apart from its talks with other foreign drug makers, could provide some 20 to 50 million doses of a possible COVID-19 vaccine. 

The yearslong goal of vaccinating more than half of the population would mean that majority of the effort will be carried out by the next administration, with the Duterte government's term ending in June 2022. 

In a weekly meeting of the coronavirus task force on Monday, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez reported that about P73.2 billion from multilateral funding sources would be used for the purchase of the vaccines. 

This would fit into the 60 million target, which Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said could bring a herd immunity in the country. 

'Priority listings' and strategy

How is administration planning to carry this out then?

Galvez in the same briefing said the health department has submitted a list of individuals around 35 million, which will be prioritized once the approved vaccines finally arrive in the country. 

This includes health workers and other COVID-19 frontliners, as well as the most vulnerable to the virus and the poor. 

State forces would also be given priority, which follows through with the president's order that he wants a healthy military and police tasked to carry out coronavirus-related curbs. 

"Kasama rin dito ang essential workers ng DSWD, DepEd at 'yung ating government agencies..vulnerable communities, indigents and poor communities," Galvez said.

(Essential workers of government agencies are also included as well as the most vulnerable, the indigents and the poor communities.) 

Galvez added that government's strategy in vaccine distribution would take form in two: geographical and sectoral.

This means that areas such as Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro — places with high COVID-19 cases — would be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by the said groups of individuals that would be prioritized. 

The Philippines has nearly 432,000 coronavirus infections to date, with over 8,200 deaths, months since the outbreak of the virus in the country.

The count remains the second highest in the Southeast Asian region, and 27th in the world, per a list by the John Hopkins University and Medicine.

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