Galvez sees vaccination of priority sectors in focus areas by May

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Galvez sees vaccination of priority sectors in focus areas by May
Officials of the Datu Blah Sinsuat District Hospital in Upi, Maguindanao receive COVID-19 vaccines in this undated photo.
The STAR / John Unson

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the tight supply of pandemic vaccines, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 is optimistic that the inoculation of five priority sectors in focus areas can begin next month.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said more than four million doses of COVID-19 shots are expected to be delivered by May. If the vaccines arrive on time, the immunization of frontline personnel in essential sectors (A4) and the indigent population (A5) may start next month, he added.

At present, COVID-19 shots are being administered to healthcare personnel (A1), senior citizens (A2), and persons with comorbidities or health risks (A3).

"For now, we are combining A1 to A3. And we are recommending that by May, considering that we call this Labor Day, we can open up (the vaccination) to what we call our economic frontliners, our laborers, our vulnerable laborers," Galvez said at a press briefing.

"We are recommending this to NITAG (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group) since the orders of the private sector are also expected to arrive. It's coincidence that during the celebration of Labor Day, we can include the A4 and A5," he added.

Galvez said the giving of vaccines to people who belong to the five priority groups would commence on focus areas like Metro Manila, CALABARZON, Central Luzon, Western Visayas, Cebu, Zamboanga Peninsula and Davao.

"Just in case all of them (four million doses of vaccines) arrive, we can really inoculate those who are classified as A1, A2 A3, A4, and A5," Galvez said in Filipino.

Asked whether the goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of Metro Manila to achieve herd immunity for the capital region, Galvez replied: "Yes, that's one of our strategies. That's what some experts, the private sector, and former secretaries of DOH (Department of Health) are saying. We consulted them and they said it would be better to do it in (populous) areas."

"Just in case we have a slippage, we have to target mostly affected areas and what we call economic centers and the vulnerable areas. For now, our immunity target is 70 million. With the slippage of the production, most probably, we might do down to 50 percent. In order to offset that...we have to prioritize the biggest areas that were really hit by COVID-19," he added.

As of yesterday, a total of 826,607 Filipinos have been vaccinated, 783,085 of them healthcare workers.

Galvez said a total of two million COVID-19 shots are expected to be delivered this month, 1.5 million of them from Chinese drug maker Sinovac and 500,000 of them from Russia's Gamaleya. He said a total of 4,194,000 doses are scheduled to arrive in May, two million of them from Sinovac, another two million from Gamaleya, and 194,000 doses from American pharmaceutical firm Moderna.

Galvez said the government remains hopeful that the second batch of AstraZeneca jabs to be acquired through the COVAX facility would arrive before the end of the month. The first batch of vaccines from the World Health Organization-led COVAX arrived last month. 

"We really have a problem in the global supply...we are doing everything, we have diplomatic relations, so we can produce AstraZeneca vaccines. We are hopeful that we can get some considering that we also have procurements. And rest assured that we will do our best so that we can get the second batch of 525,600 doses," the vaccine czar said.

Another 10.5 million doses of COVID-19 jabs may arrive in June. The bulk of these vaccines, 4.5 million of them, will come from Sinovac, four million will come from Gamaleya, and one million each will come from American firm Novavax and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca.

A total of 13.5 million doses are scheduled to be delivered in June, and 20 million doses each in August and in September. Six million pandemic vaccine doses are expected to arrive within the fourth quarter.

The government aims to vaccinate 500,000 to one million people per week in April and May and two million to three million individuals per week in June and July. It aims to inoculate 50 million to 70 million people by yearend.




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