EDITORIAL – Streamlining vaccination

The Philippine Star

The government is holding another three-day mass vaccination drive beginning today as the Senate Blue Ribbon committee prepares to look into transparency issues and the wastage of 44 million COVID-19 vaccines – about 17.5 percent of the total available doses in the country.

As part of the latest Bakunahang Bayan, Department of Health personnel are going house to house and setting up vaccination sites at public places including malls, wet markets, schools and churches to persuade people to get their shots. The DOH is urging those who have had none or only one dose, and the eligible who have not received their boosters to get the free jabs, including children ages five to 11. First boosters are now available for ages 12 and above. The elderly and those with comorbidities are being encouraged to get their shots.

Infectious disease experts stress that COVID continues to kill and cause long-term debilitation especially among vulnerable sectors. SARS-CoV-2 keeps mutating into more transmissible variants. While the new strains cause only mild infections among the vaccinated and boosted, the vulnerable particularly the unvaccinated continue to face serious risks. As of Dec. 3, about 4.04 million COVID infections had been recorded in the Philippines, with 64,701 deaths.

Nearly 73.7 million Filipinos had been fully vaccinated as of Nov. 20. About 20.9 million had received first booster shots while 3.5 million had received second boosters. DOH officials have acknowledged a significant slowdown in vaccine and booster uptake, attributing it to a combination of complacency and difficult access to vaccines. This week’s vaccination campaign aims to make the jabs widely accessible.

There are people reportedly waiting for the procurement of the next-generation bivalent vaccines, which are designed to work against the emerging Omicron subvariants. Health experts, however, have stressed that the bivalent vaccines will be in limited supply and will be administered only to those who had their second boosters.

The private sector had complained of slow government action for the wastage of P5 billion worth of vaccines procured through the pooled resources of private businesses. This will likely be part of the Senate Blue Ribbon inquiry. Where the Senate probe will lead, however, is uncertain. People are still wondering about the final outcome of the Blue Ribbon investigation into the sweetheart deals awarded to Pharmally Pharmaceuticals by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management in the previous administration. Have the Pharmally and PS-DBM personalities implicated in the deal been cleared of wrongdoing?

The World Health Organization continues to stress that the COVID threat is far from over. Winning the war calls for further pushing and streamlining vaccination efforts.

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