The National Task Force against COVID-19 needs to achieve five million inoculations per week to use up all its monthly vaccine supply, its spokesman said Sunday.
NTF spokesperson Restituto Padilla said the government is seeking to keep its target number of vaccinations to reach herd immunity, amid complaints about the slow vaccination process in the country.
"If possible, we must inoculate 1 million every day. But our target for one week is at 5 million so that we can administer a month's supply of 20 to 25 million doses," Padilla said over Dobol B TV.
He admitted there is a lack of vaccinators in some centers as some health workers are shifting to COVID-19 response as cases surge in the country.
Padilla added that some vaccination centers in Metro Manila are slowing down due to the suspension of walk-in inoculations, which could possibly cause community transmission of the coronavirus.
"We have stopped walk-in inoculations because of the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant—to avoid possible superspreader events,” he said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday said that implementing the so-called "bakuna bubbles" to segregate those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from those who are unvaccinated at this time may face possible legal challenges for being discriminatory.
“If this will be implemented at this time, most likely it can be challenged legally for being discriminatory,” Guevarra said, in an interview with Dobol B TV.
He admitted that the proposal to have "bakuna bubbles" was intended to protect the vaccinated and unvaccinated, to encourage those not vaccinated to get inoculated, and to help boost the economy.
But the Cabinet secretary noted that vaccines are not yet made available in some areas.
“Many want to get vaccinated, but they have no access yet to the vaccines. It is not their fault that they are not yet vaccinated so it seems unfair if they will be deprived of access to certain places,” Guevarra stressed.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion III earlier raised the need to restrict individuals unvaccinated against COVID-19 and impose bubbles for those fully vaccinated.
In a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released in August, 50% of Filipinos lamented the slow COVID-19 vaccination pace in the country.
The Philippines has secured 194.89 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for 2021, which is believed to be enough to cover all eligible populations in the country.
While Padilla noted that some local government units, specifically in NCR Plus, lack crematoriums, this is still not "problematic" yet because LGUs are coordinating with each other.
"But, by and large, cremation is still not problematic. LGUs are helping other LGUs. There is coordination among them,” the NTF spokesman said.
He pointed out that medical experts have yet to allow the suspension
of the policy on cremation of COVID-19 deaths.
Padilla said the remains of COVID-19 dead are stored first in mortuaries while awaiting cremation.
Guevarra stressed that vaccination against COVID-19 is not yet mandatory in the country.
“Right now, what is mandatory only are the minimum health protocols such as wearing of face masks, social distancing, and so forth and so on,” he noted.
According to Guevarra, some people have valid medical reasons why they could not get vaccinated against COVID-19.
He noted that some may have allergies or have contraindications.
Guevarra also pointed out that the government follows the order of priorities in its vaccination program. This puts healthcare workers first (A1), senior citizens second (A2), and persons with co-morbidities third (A3).
“Right now, we are still vaccinating A4. This means only up to economic frontliners. The general population, based on the order of priority, is not yet included,” he said.
However, the Justice Secretary said that when the time comes that vaccines are readily available to everyone such that there is no reason why anyone would refuse a vaccine except for medical reasons, then it would be reasonable to refuse to have unvaccinated people in some areas.
“If there will be enough vaccine supplies available to everyone, people will have no excuse to refuse vaccination except for medical reasons,” he said.
“There will then be a reasonable basis to refuse entry to unvaccinated persons. In this situation, it would not be discriminatory [to impose vaccine bubbles],” Guevarra added.
Concepcion said the government should look into “bold moves” such as restricting the unvaccinated population from entering and eating at certain establishments or moving around the country.
He said incentives can also be provided to businesses that target full vaccination of their employees, such as increased operational capacity.
Vaccinated individuals can also be given incentives such as more mobility and ease of travel, and exempting them from mandatory tests once fully protected, he added.