The National Task Force against COVID-19 plans to push for an annual vaccination drive against the coronavirus disease 2019, its chief said on Wednesday.
“We are looking at the different phenomena in other countries. Every Monday we are collecting global updates from the custom consultative group and we see that there’s a need to hold an annual vaccination cycle – we can’t have this vaccination as a one time, big time program,” said vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., in an interview on the sidelines of the ceremonial vaccination of tourism workers in Taytay, Rizal.
Galvez noted that the NTF was studying the trends in the current global vaccine supply.
The NTF has released its recalibrated national vaccination program for the remaining months of 2021 and until next year, which includes crafting a vaccine security roadmap amid the presence of COVID-19 variants and reformulated booster shots.
“Considering that we only have more or less 30 percent in the vaccination program, we are yet to discuss booster shots, but in our planning, it is part of our six to eight-month vaccination cycle,” he said.
Galvez said the government had set aside vaccine doses for healthcare workers, saying they were ready once the World Health Organization and the Department of Health approved the provision of booster shots to them.
He noted that those healthcare workers who initially received the vaccine doses in March might be the first to receive booster shots “either by November or maybe February.”
Citing the vaccination program in other countries, Galvez said there was a need to push for the giving booster shots in the country.
“We see that, by programming, by the first quarter [of 2022] we can start the third dosing of our healthcare workers,” he said.
The administration of booster shots is still subject to the approval of the DOH, he added.
From the original 70 percent target, the government is now eyeing to complete the vaccination of up to 80 percent of the country’s 110 million population.
To date, the Philippines has administered a total of 47,778,751 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with 22,402,105 Filipinos now fully vaccinated while some 25,376,646 are waiting for their second dose.
No restrictions yet on unvaxxed: DOLE
Restricting the movement of unvaccinated people is not yet possible because of lack of vaccines in the country, according to the Department of Labor Employment.
Secretary Silvestre Bello III said restrictions should only be imposed on unvaccinated people if the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the country was enough to cover everyone.
Bello issued the statement after several business and industry groups called for mobility restrictions for unvaccinated individuals to boost the government’s mass vaccination efforts.
“We are seriously considering issuing an advisory that you need to be vaccinated to be able to go to work,” Bello said.
“But the issue here is, the vaccine supply is not enough. We can talk about that if we already have an ample supply of vaccines, but now it is inadequate,” he said.
PH logs 9,868 cases
The Philippines logged on Wednesday 9,868 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,622,917.
The DOH failed again to report new deaths as technical issues with the health department’s data collating system persisted.
This marks the second straight day where less than 10,000 cases were recorded as the DOH cited technical issues with COVIDKaya.
Reproduction numbercontinues to drop
The effective reproduction number of COVID-19 cases in the country, now at 0.83, continues to drop, an infectious disease expert said.
In a Facebook post, infectious diseases expert Dr. Edsel Salvaña, who is also a member of the DOH Technical Advisory Group, said the less than one Rt of infections nationwide had a 90 percent confidence interval, from 0.73 to 0.93, an indication of a decrease in cases.
The Rt, the virus’ actual transmission rate at a given time, tracks the number of other people a single infected person is likely to infect. It is a measure of how fast the disease is spreading.
With the downward trend, the positivity rate and healthcare utilization rates are also going down.
2 more hospitals for jabs for minors
Two hospitals will be added to the initial list of six medical facilities that will pilot the vaccination of minors aged 12 to 17, Secretary Galvez said.
Galvez said the St. Luke’s Hospital would join the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, National Children’s Hospital, Philippine Heart Center, Pasig City Children’s Hospital, Fe Del Mundo Medical Center, and Philippine General Hospital, all in the National Capital Region.
Galvez said he would announce later the eighth hospital to be added to the list, as they were still “finalizing some concerns.”
He noted the inoculation of 15 to 17 years old would be done first, followed by the 12 to 14 years group.
Compassionate permit for antiviral drug okayed
Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo said four hospitals had been granted Compassionate Special Permit as of Tuesday for the antiviral drug molnupiravir believed to be effective against COVID-19.
In a televised Laging Handa briefing, Domingo said the Philippines was included in the multi-country clinical trial of the molnupiravir.
Molnupiravir was developed by Merck & Co., which has not applied for emergency use authorization in the country but is soon to apply for one in the United States.