WHO urges PH to follow priority list for continued rollout of COVAX vaccines
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday urged the Philippine government to “respect” the priority list for recipients of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility to ensure the continued rollout of the precious jabs from the global vaccine sharing pool.
WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that “to access these vaccines and the remainder of the vaccines that will be coming to the Philippines before the end of the year,” the country should be able to demonstrate that it can efficiently roll out the shots with minimized wastage and observe the prioritization list recommended by WHO.
Abeyasinghe said the WHO has recommended that healthcare workers be prioritized first, followed by the elderly and those with comorbidities.
“If we cannot demonstrate that we are following this prioritization, unfortunately, the COVAX may have to consider other options where the impact of the vaccine rollout will be more useful and practical and will contribute to saving more lives,” he said in an online press briefing.
“We urge everybody concerned to kindly respect the prioritization that has been determined by the DOH (Department of Health) and the NITAG (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group) in consultation with WHO and to please follow that so that we can ensure the continued rollout of COVAX vaccines into the country,” he added.
COVAX is a global vaccine sharing scheme aimed at ensuring equitable access to vaccines, especially for low and middle-income countries.
However, Abeyasinghe added that “this prioritization is not something that the WHO is planning to police,” and that the international body leaves the adherence to the prioritization list to the DOH.
Asked if COVAX will stop providing vaccines to the Philippines if the country fails to follow the prioritization list, Abeyasinghe said: “It’s not me who decides that. As I’ve mentioned already, the COVAX facility and all the signatories [are] expected to follow those criteria to which the Philippine government has also agreed and signed.”
“As I said, the primary purpose of the COVAX facility was to minimize the effect of the pandemic by protecting the most at risk and the most vulnerable,” Abeyasinghe said.
“If there are multiple reports of violation of that prioritization, the COVAX may have to decide how to address that challenge. My word of caution is let’s not go there,” he added.
The WHO official earlier said that the Philippines will receive 44 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines allocated by COVAX within the year, with up to 9.2 million doses arriving within the second quarter.
Malacañang earlier said 487,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca will arrive in the Philippines this Thursday.
Meanwhile, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Monday that the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech which was initially expected to arrive in the country in mid-February through COVAX may instead be delivered by the second quarter of this year. Liezelle Soriano Roy, Trainee
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