Govt urged: Expand vaccination, fast-track third dose for health workers, vulnerable population

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 20) - A former Health secretary raised concern on the government's vaccination pace despite the COVID-19 vaccine supply stabilizing in the country.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday, former Health chief and incumbent Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin questioned the slow inoculation of Filipinos, with over 26 million doses still lying idle in warehouses.

"If you look at the total jabs or number of doses consumed, it's somewhere around 52.7 million. In the reports, we were told around 13 million has been prepositioned," Garin said. "If we focus on the 90 million (total received), we have 26 million doses just lying idle. Nagrerelax ang mga bakuna sa ating mga warehouse (The vaccines are relaxing in our warehouses)."

Garin also said not all vaccines are administered to the provinces immediately since priority groups are not yet finished.

"In the provinces, in Visayas and in Mindanao, although it is being announced here that everybody should be vaccinated, meron pang mga verbal orders, sasabihing, 'ay hindi pa pwede kasi kailangan mauna ubusin yung 50% ng seniors, 'hindi pa pwede kasi dapat mauna muna mga A3.'"

[Translation: There would be verbal orders saying, 'we cannot vaccinate the others just yet because we need to reach 50% of the seniors,' or 'we need to start vaccinating the A3 or persons with comorbidities first.']

More and more residents in Metro Manila are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus after the government expanded the inoculation drive to include minors with comorbidities in select hospitals last week.

Garin earlier said vaccination of minors must not be limited to hospitals due to potential health risks. She added that with more youths getting vaccinated, the bigger the likelihood of the COVID-19 vaccines to prevent transmission because there are lesser breakthrough infections among the younger population.

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She also urged the government to start giving additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to protect health workers, senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities.

A third dose is different from a booster shot, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. Boosters are given to those whose COVID-19 immunity has waned over time after vaccination while a third dose is for those who did not generate a strong immune response following COVID-19 immunization.

The government intends to give a third dose to healthcare workers and those who are immunocompromised starting next month pending a formal recommendation from the World Health Organization.

READ: PH eyes third COVID-19 shot for health workers, vulnerable sectors by November