WHO lauds PH's COVID-19 vaccination drive, suggests ways to improve

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25) — Two officials from the World Health Organization on Wednesday highlighted that the Philippines has vaccinated a significant number of vulnerable individuals, but they said there is room for improvement especially at a time when the more contagious Delta variant is spreading.

Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said he was pleased to hear that at least 95% of healthcare workers in the country and close to 50% of elderly have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

"The government is putting significant effort in vaccinations," he said in a virtual media briefing.

WHO Essential Medicines and Health Technologies coordinator Dr. Socorro Escalante agreed, saying the Philippines has maximized its capacity to rapidly roll out the limited vaccine supply across the country.

"The vaccination rollout in the Philippines is going quite well," she said. "We have seen that they have a good plan of ensuring that when it is made available, they are distributed to the local government units as soon as possible."

The Philippines has fully vaccinated 13.19 million — or 17% of the target population to reach herd immunity — while 17.49 million have received their first dose.

Escalante noted that while several local governments are successfully carrying out their vaccination program, there are some that can still improve in vaccinating the priority sectors. She added local officials should continue to reach out to the remaining healthcare workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbidities who haven't received their shots yet.

WHO data showed as of August 24, the Philippines had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the Western Pacific Region. It was also the country with the most number of infections recorded on that day, followed by Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, insufficient adherence to minimum public health standards, and difficulty in detecting asymptomatic or mild cases are among the reasons behind this, WHO officials said.

Kasai said the Delta variant, which is testing the public health capacity of all nations, is invading households.

"Delta's higher transmissibility means clusters of cases are quickly leading to bigger outbreaks especially in the high-risk settings... We are also seeing more clusters in families. Once the virus enters the household, more family members are quickly becoming infected," he said.