MANILA, Philippines — Administering COVID-19 jabs obtained through the COVAX Facility to non-health workers jumping the line could risk the country’s allocation in the vaccine-sharing initiative, the Department of Health warned.
The DOH issued the warning Tuesday after non-medical frontliners, including mayors, skipped the line for COVID-19 vaccination. It stressed the limited shots must be first given to healthcare workers who are at the forefront of treating and caring for patients with COVID-19.Related
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated the World Health Organization’s statement that all doses supplied by the COVAX Facility must be given to priority groups and its warning that the Philippines may risk losing millions of much needed shots if it fails to follow prioritization commitments.
“Giving the vaccines to non-healthcare workers when not all healthcare workers have been vaccinated will jeopardize succeeding doses from COVAX.”Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire
The government is expecting to get millions of free vaccines from the WHO-led initiative, enough to immunize at least 15% of its population against the disease by the end of 2021.
The Philippines has so far received 525,600 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca. Additional 979,200 doses of AstraZeneca jabs are also seen to be delivered by end-March.
COVAX is a global initiative working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 shots are available to both higher-income and lower-income countries.
‘Wait for our turn’
In a briefing Wednesday, Vergeire appealed to the public and fellow government officials to respect the existing prioritization framework.
“Let’s wait for our turn. That will come. We are entitled to be vaccinated. We just need to have prioritization because our vaccine supply is not enough at the moment,” she said in Filipino.
Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez and Minglanilla City Mayor Elanito Peña, who are not on the priority list for vaccination, were inoculated with CoronaVac and AstraZeneca shots, respectively.
Malacañang asked the Department of the Interior and Local Government to probe into the inoculation of Romualdez. The DOH, for its part, said it has referred the matter to the DILG as well as to the Department of Justice.
The government earlier drew criticism for the unauthorized inoculation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s close in security team with smuggled Sinopharm vaccines last year. Columnist Mon Tulfo also revealed that he and other government officials got vaccinated ahead of everyone else.
Nobody has been held to account over those incidents.
Public urged to remain on guard
The health department also asked the public to report incidents of people jumping the vaccination line so authorities can initiate investigations. They can call the agency through 8651-7800 local 2527 or inform DOH regional offices.
“We all guard our vaccine so we can appropriately give it to the people who are at most need,” Vergeire said.
The Philippines kicked off its vaccination drive on March 1. So far, some 336,656 Filipinos have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of March 20.