Only 193,000 health workers vaccinated even with 1.125 million doses available
MANILA, Philippines — Fewer than 200,000 health workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19 though nearly all of the 1.125 million doses of donated vaccines that arrived nearly two weeks ago have been distributed.
Since the rollout of the CoronaVac vaccine from China on March 1 and the AstraZeneca shot from the global vaccine pool COVAX on March 6, 193,492 health workers have been given their first dose as of Saturday, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Beverly Ho, director of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, also said on Monday that 90 percent of the vaccines had already been distributed to vaccination sites across the country. These hospitals have also received the vaccines for the second dose.
Policemen and soldiers as well as several government officials were also inoculated with CoronaVac, the vaccine made by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech.
Side effects ‘manageable’
Ho said the adverse events after vaccination were “manageable” and none of those who experienced side effects needed hospitalization.
“The rates are still manageable … The symptoms are resolving. The people are able to recover and go home and these are reported,” Ho told reporters in an online briefing.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that with 193,492 health workers inoculated, 34 percent of the 1.125 million doses of the vaccine have been used or reserved for the second dose.
In Metro Manila, he said, 70 percent of the allocated vaccines for the first dose have been given.
“[Metro Manila] has performed quite well. They are now 70 percent for the first dose inoculation,” Duque said in a media forum on Monday with the World Health Organization representative and the European Union ambassador.
The Philippines is negotiating for more vaccines to inoculate 70 percent of its 108 million population this year.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved on Thursday a loan of $400 million for the Philippines’ vaccination drive.
Kelly Bird, ADB country director, announced the approval of the loan during presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s press briefing on Monday.
Spike in infections
Bird said the ADB loan was being cofinanced by Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which would add to it $300 million so that the Philippines would get a total of $700 million.
He said the ADB loan allowed advance payment and direct payment to vaccine suppliers, thus providing a “very streamlined procurement process” for the Philippines.
The Philippines is battling a spike in coronavirus infections, with new cases hitting up to 5,000 daily.
Worries are that the spike is driven by variants of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including the UK and South Africa variants, which are more contagious than the dominant type of the virus.
Independent research group OCTA has warned that cases could reach up to 8,000 a day by the end of March if the flare-up is not suppressed.
The group has recommended local lockdowns and strict compliance with public health measures, such as wearing masks and face shields and observing physical distancing.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING AND JULIE M. AURELIO
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