Concepcion pushes mandatory vaccination

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
Concepcion pushes mandatory vaccination
A pharmacist prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine with a syringe in a pharmacy, in Savenay, western France, on April 2, 2021.
AFP / Loic Venance

MANILA, Philippines — Vaccination should be made mandatory for all qualified Filipinos now that large shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are arriving in the country, an adviser of President Duterte said yesterday.

“Maybe this is the time President Duterte should really mandate vaccination for all,” presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said on CNN Philippines.

“These vaccines will spoil between four to five months so we have to inoculate everyone,” he said.

The Go Negosyo founder cited how the United States is being aggressive on requiring government employees to be inoculated against COVID-19.

Here in the Philippines, Concepcion said the challenge is no longer the lack of vaccine supply, but “the capability of LGUs (local government units) out there to really increase their jabbing capacity.”

The private sector and LGUs purchased 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through Go Negosyo’s A Dose of Hope initiative.

Of these 17 million doses, about four million doses have already arrived, Concepcion said.

He said most of the AstraZeneca vaccines are arriving this year and those to be delivered next year would be used as booster shots.

More vaccines

The US delivered an additional 1,842,750 doses of the?Pfizer-BioNTech?COVID-19 vaccine to the country as part of its effort to help end the pandemic.

The vaccines, delivered in two separate shipments to Manila on Oct. 10 and 11, were part of the 500 million doses of Pfizer the US is making available for distribution in partnership with the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility.

This followed last week’s delivery of 5.57 million doses of Pfizer vaccine to the Philippines.

Chargé d’Affaires Heather Variava of the US embassy in Manila joined National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. and other stakeholders in welcoming the latest shipments at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) – 924,300 doses on Oct. 10, and 918,450 more on Oct. 11.

“We’re really proud to be part of this effort here in the Philippines to vaccinate the Filipino people, including teenagers and children so we can get them back to school,” Variava said.

As the largest donor to the COVAX Facility, the US has facilitated the delivery of more than 24.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines, including more than 16.4 million doses provided by the American people.

Also, the country is expecting a total of 4,066,860 COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V in the next three days.

Today, 939,510 doses of the Pfizer vaccine is set to arrive at 9:20 p.m.; tomorrow, separate shipments of 1,056,000 doses of the UK-made AstraZeneca vaccine and 926,640 doses of Pfizer will be flown in; and on Saturday, 720,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will arrive.

Pediatric vaccination

Galvez said the government is all set to vaccinate minors in the 12 to 17 age bracket starting tomorrow, with eight pre-selected hospitals participating.

He said the country now has enough vaccine supplies to inoculate roughly 1.2 million adolescents with comorbidities, of whom around 144,123 are in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines with emergency use authorization (EUA) for those within the 12 to 17 years old age group.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian called on the NTF not to implement a “walk-in” system in the inoculation of minors to prevent crowding.

Gatchalian made this call in a Senate panel hearing on the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes. The same hearing discussed the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to minors.

Quarantine proposals

With COVID-19 infections on a downtrend, Concepcion has proposed downgrading the quarantine status in Metro Manila to Alert Level 2 or Alert Level 3 and allowing 50-percent capacity in business establishments.

He is even pushing for allowing businesses to operate at a higher capacity of 70 percent within the year.

He has also called on the government to allow cinemas, derma clinics and wellness spas to be allowed to open for the fully vaccinated across all alert levels.

At present, Alert Level 4 is imposed in Metro Manila, which allows 20 percent indoor capacity for dine-in restaurants and select personal care service establishments with fully vaccinated workers and customers, and at 30 percent capacity for outdoor operations where all employees have received complete COVID-19 shots.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) jumpstarted yesterday the nationwide community-based and catch-up immunization campaign against measles, rubella and tetanus diptheria (MR-Td).

According to DOH director for NCR Gloria Balboa, the campaign is aimed to vaccinate eligible children who missed their shots because of the pandemic.

Balboa said at a press briefing they hope parents would allow their children to be protected against “vaccine-preventable diseases” like MR-Td.

In NCR, she noted the goal is to cover 177,632 infants aged 0 to 23 months old by routine immunization.

On the other hand, the MR-Td vaccines will be given to 306,849 children aged 6 to 7 years old and to 207,114 children aged 12 to 13.

She added from yesterday up to the end of October, they hope to cover these children by doing door-to-door vaccination, aside from the routine immunization at health centers.

From November to Dec. 22, this can be done every Wednesday and Saturday, depending on the number of remaining target beneficiaries.

In other parts of the country, MR-Td jabbing will also be carried out continuously.

DOH-Health Promotion Bureau director Dr. Beverly Ho said they are also faced with limited health workers who can do the routine immunizaiton because they are also responding to COVID-19 inoculation.

But Ho is hopeful that the country can replicate the success of the anti-polio vaccination campaign on MR-Td by working with LGUs, non-governmental organizations and other development partners.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has appealed to parents and guardians to submit their children to MR-Td immunization. – Sheila Crisostomo, Jose Rodel Clapano, Rudy Santos, Pia Lee-Brago, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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