Time to hurry up immunization before vaccines expire – Bayan Muna
MANILA, Philippines — Party-list group Bayan Muna has urged the government to accelerate the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines to achieve herd immunity quickly and avoid the possibility of lost vials due to degradation.
Rep. Carlos Zarate said on Wednesday that the national government should assign more medical personnel to administer vaccines, especially since some experts had voiced their worry that the vaccines would go bad by June.
“The current pace of about 62,654 daily vaccination will certainly not make the Philippines attain the desired herd immunity at the end of the year; at this rate, it may be attained probably after six years or in May 2027,” Zarate said, referring to the current administration’s target to initiate herd immunity before 2022.
“Based on available data, the vaccine supply now is at 7,764,050 doses, which is enough to fully inoculate about 3.57 percent of our population but at the rate, we are going now a bulk of the vaccines may reach its expiration date in June and would just be wasted,” he added.
Zarate was talking about the warnings made by Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser to the InterAgency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), who said that AstraZeneca vials expire between June and July.
“As Dr. Tony Leachon, former adviser of the IATF, warned, the available 1.5 M doses of AstraZeneca vaccine should be used immediately as these will already expire in June and another 500k more will expire in July,” he noted.
“Also, based on herdimmunity.ph website, a minimum of 608,811 vaccinations should be done daily to attain the December 2021 herd immunity target. We still have the needed vaccines to do this and fast track the inoculations,” he added.
As early as March, many critics have already noted that the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout was slow, even when vaccines are now available.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno on Tuesday slammed the national government for a “super-slow” move in distributing vaccines to local government units, saying Manila didn’t even get a fair share despite being one of the most populous cities in the country.
He also noted that the vaccine supply in the country has also been problematic since the government appears to be storing the vials in refrigerators and warehouses.
“Now, for those who want to get Pfizer, we were just discussing and planning a while ago because the vaccine supply seems unreliable. The global supply is unreliable, and it’s unreliable here because it’s so slow. I’m telling you now: The deployment is not slow, it’s superslow,” he said.
Soon after Moreno fumed, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque explained that several quality checks had held up the vaccine.
However, Zarate said the government should focus vaccination efforts on areas with high infection rates and business centers – like Manila, and the whole National Capital Region bubble that includes nearby provinces – if it wants to curb COVID-19 cases completely.
“It would also be best to concentrate first in the areas where there are concentrations of infections like the NCR Plus bubble, Cebu, Davao and Isabela so as to prevent the Covid virus from further spreading,” he stressed.
“Itigil na dapat ang style na patulog-tulog sa pansitan at pabilisin at pahusayin na ang roll out dahil buhay at kabuhayan ng mga Filipino ang nakasalalay dito,” he claimed.
(They should stop the slow-paced style and instead hasten and make the rollout more efficient because the lives and jobs of Filipinos are at stake.)
The country is banking on COVID-19 vaccines to restore normalcy and move the economy after dealing with the worst recession in 2020. It is also seen to stop the recent COVID-19 surge, which saw active cases balloon to over 200,000 during its peak in April.
However, even as the country had already received over seven million vaccines, around two million individuals have gotten at least their first dose as of Tuesday.
The country’s active case count has continued to go down, receding to 53,214 as of Wednesday. However, vaccinations would still be of high importance since the active case count is still higher than before Metro Manila and nearby areas dealt with the surge.
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