Senator urges government to further accelerate vaccination

Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — To ensure the efficient rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, Sen. Bong Go reiterated his appeal for agencies to fast-track its distribution in the country as the government prepares to vaccinate a wider population.

“Let’s speed it up. But it has to be planned well so nothing would go to waste… Let us not waste time in vaccinating, so our communities can attain herd immunity,” Go said.

He noted that the government is in a race against time as vaccines have a limited shelf life, and new variants threaten to reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines and possibly reverse any progress.

While the government expects the arrival of more vaccine doses in the next few months, Go said the current stocks must be deployed immediately and more vaccination sites should be established to improve the country’s vaccination rate.

“Whatever vaccine we have now, these should be used for the frontliners and the vulnerable and essential sectors that are still waiting to get vaccinated. This should be done in areas where COVID cases are still high,” he added.

However, the Senate committee on health chair also reminded authorities to follow the vaccine prioritization framework to ensure that the country’s health care workers and most vulnerable citizens get vaccinated first.

Go warned that failure to adhere to the framework would result in missed doses and needlessly slow down the vaccine rollout. He also advised concerned authorities to already prepare for the eventuality that the country would need to acquire more vaccines to address newer variants, given the evolving nature of COVID-19.

As the National Capital Region and many provinces were already placed under general community quarantine status, he urged Filipinos not to get complacent and to continue exercising the necessary health and safety protocols.

“As government strives to balance the need to protect public health along with reviving the economy and livelihoods of Filipinos, we should not lose sight of the necessity of being vigilant. Our continued cooperation can save lives,” Go reiterated.

Prioritize frontliners

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health to expand the vaccination of economic and government frontliners, categorized as A4 in the priority list, as soon as possible.

“So many vaccines have arrived in the country thanks to the efforts of Sec. Carlito Galvez and Sec. Vince Dizon. However, a lot of these vaccines are just sitting in storage, with many vaccination centers reporting a lack of people to vaccinate, under the A1 to A3 categories. As a matter of fact, I have been told that some vaccination centers have allowed walk-ins so as not to spoil the defrosted and opened vaccines,” Zubiri said.

He noted that the government’s vaccination rollout, which began last February, is currently serving frontline health workers (A1), senior citizens (A2) and persons with comorbidities (A3).

To date, the country has received over seven million vaccine doses of CoronaVac (Sinovac), AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, and Pfizer-BioNTech – all two-dose vaccines. Only around 2.02 million people have received at least a single dose so far, with just over 500,000 receiving the full two doses.

“If some of our vaccination centers are empty right now, I think it’s time that we open them up for the next level in the priority list, our A4 frontliners – our essential economic workers and our uniformed personnel. This category is really crucial for our goal of herd immunity,” Zubiri stressed.

The Senate leader said he supports the stand of Dizon and Galvez to start vaccinating the A4 group, assuring that “all of our vaccination centers will be fully utilized, so we can bring up our vaccinations to at least 100,000 individuals a day.”

“Of course we have to continue our efforts of vaccinating our most vulnerable sectors, so we will keep reaching out to our health workers, senior citizens and our persons with comorbidities,” he said.

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