DOH hastens shots for seniors, unhealthy folk
MANILA, Philippines — Local governments in Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal will simultaneously vaccinate elderly and unhealthy people along with health workers amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the region.
In giving the order on Saturday, the Department of Health (DOH) gave Metro Manila residents 60 years old and above until March 31 to register for vaccination with their local governments, while the rest of the country’s senior citizens were given until April 5 to register with their local governments.
The registration also applies to people with any of seven underlying conditions identified by the DOH. They will be required to present medical proof such as a recent prescription on the day of vaccination.
These seven conditions are chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, malignancy, diabetes mellitus and obesity.
Depression is not an underlying condition. The Parañaque government gave a shot to former actor Mark Anthony Fernandez, who it said had depression.
The DOH also gave health workers who had not been given shots until March 31 to sign up with their local governments.
People above 60 years old will get the vaccine made by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, while people with illnesses will be given the CoronaVac shot made in China.
Health workers can take either vaccine.
The DOH said vaccination against COVID-19 had to be sped up to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by protecting people at high risk of severe illness and death in case of infection, namely the health workers, elderly and people with illnesses.
“This strategy is born out of the fact that we are having an increase in the number in cases. Part of the measures of our government to help contain the spread of the disease is to ramp up vaccination,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Monday.
‘Clinically healthy’ people
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had authorized only the emergency use of CoronaVac for “clinically healthy” people aged 18 to 59.
Despite this limitation, Vergeire said experts in two DOH advisory bodies—the Health Technical Assessment Council (HTAC) and the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (Nitag)—had recommended CoronaVac for people “with controlled comorbidities.”
The FDA allowed AstraZeneca’s emergency use for people 18 and older.
Asked how the target groups can sign up during the lockdown and Holy Week when offices are closed, Vergeire said they can register online.
The DOH was supposed to release the mechanics for the simultaneous vaccinations on Monday.
The country has 1.8 million health workers, nearly 10 million Filipinos who are over 60, and 14.5 million adults with illnesses.
In Manila, at least 276 of 2,380 registered over-60s were expected to be vaccinated ahead of the simultaneous vaccinations.
Carlito Galvez Jr., head of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, had pushed for the simultaneous inoculations in Metro Manila and the four surrounding provinces to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the region.
As of Saturday, 656,331 health workers and employees in essential industries and some government officials who jumped the line had received their first dose of either CoronaVac or AstraZeneca.
Those who received CoronaVac 28 days ago are up for their second dose this week.
On Monday, President Duterte and other officials took delivery of 1 million doses of CoronaVac that the government had procured for P700 million.
The shots were flown from China by a Philippine Airlines cargo plane.
In a television interview, Galvez said 1.5 million more doses of CoronaVac would arrive in April, to be followed by 2 million doses in May and 4.5 million doses in June, with the remainder of the 25 million doses procured by the government arriving before the end of the year.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING
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