PASAY, Philippines — The National Task Force Against COVID-19 emphasized that it will continue to prioritize the inoculation of unvaccinated individuals over the administration of booster shots for those who have completed their primary doses.
In an online interview on Wednesday, NTF chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. warned that those who have not yet received the COVID-19 jab are more prone to hospitalization, severe cases, and death.
The Department of Health (DOH) recently reported that around 85% of patients now confined in intensive care units and are being supported by mechanical ventilators are unvaccinated.
“Ang focus po natin ay ang 3 million na unvaccinated [na senior citizens], kasi ang benefits ng first dose ay more weighted sa boosters, kasi ‘yung mga naka dalawang doses na at least meron na silang proteksyon. Ang talagang mag-ooverwhelm ng ating health care facilities ay ‘yung talagang unvaccinated,” Galvez said.
“Even sa Omicron, sa mga pag-aaral sa Europe at South Africa, 10 is to 1. Ibig sabihin, sampu ang unvaccinated, 1 ang vaccinated. So, mas malaki ang value na ang bakunahan natin ay ‘yung matatandang 3 million at ‘yung mga may co-morbidities kasi ‘yun po ang mamamatay,” he added.
Galvez clarified, however, that the administration of booster shots to eligible individuals will not slow down and will in fact continue to be ramped up since the country has enough vaccine supplies for primary doses and booster shots.
The vaccine czar earlier said that the Philippines has around 100 million doses of vaccines stored in warehouses, which are enough to cover 28 to 30 million unvaccinated individuals and 25 million individuals needing booster doses.
As of January 11, the Philippines has administered a total of 115,307,831 vaccine doses. Of this number, 53,389,481 are already fully vaccinated which is equivalent to 69.21% of the target population.
Meanwhile, a total of 3,860,343 individuals have received their booster or additional doses.
Initial rollout for 5-11 y/o vaccination
Galvez also announced that the initial rollout for the vaccination of children aged five to 11 is set for the first week of February, following the expected delivery of reformulated Pfizer doses for the said age group by the end of January.
“Ang delivery na expected ay Pfizer. In-advance nila ang delivery na instead of February, ay ginawang last week of January. ‘Yung February 1 to 7, doon na tayo magsisimula ng mini-rollout,” he said.
“Planado na po kami sa children vaccination kasi isa ‘yun sa main objectives natin kasi gusto po nating makapag-open na ng classes at ma-lift ang restrictions sa mga bata,” Galvez added.
Meanwhile, the government aims to finish the primary vaccination for minors aged 12 to 17 within the first quarter, and begin the administration of their booster shots by the second quarter.
Galvez earlier said the government is looking into inoculating those aged zero to four years old, pending the results of its consultations with different manufacturers.
Reinforcements to health facilities
Due to the increasing number of health workers who are in quarantine, Galvez said the government has been sending additional medical personnel to different health care facilities to sustain their operations amidst the surge of COVID-19 infections.
According to the DOH, nearly 6,600 health workers in Metro Manila, or 7.2% of the region’s health personnel, are under quarantine.
Despite these developments, Galvez gave the assurance that the government is taking the necessary steps to address these concerns and ensure the continuous delivery of healthcare services.
“Nagmo-mobilize po tayo ng armed forces, PNP, BJMP at ‘yung ating Coast Guard, nire-reinforce na po ‘yung mga ospital na kinukulang na ng health care workers,” he said.
“‘Yun po talaga ang nakita natin na isang talagang malaking challenge ngayon dahil pati ‘yung ating health workers ay tinatamaan na rin po. Huwag po tayong mag-panic. Ginagawa po ng IATF, mayors at hospital directors ang lahat ng kanilang magagawa para hindi mapabayaan ang healthcare treatment,” he added.