The Department of Health said the government will administer the first batch of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable groups.
Those who will be prioritized include healthcare workers, senior citizens and individuals with comorbidities, the DOH said.
This is in line with the conditions set by COVAX facility, the United Nations-backed international vaccine-sharing scheme.
“Once additional doses are secured and available, prioritization may be expanded to other priority groups,” the DOH said, adding that it was finalizing the guidelines on the use of the bivalent vaccines—modified jabs that target the Omicron variant and the original form of the virus.
“Rest assured that the guidelines shall be issued in time for the implementation of the roll-out of the vaccines in the country.”
The Philippines has secured an initial donation of around 1 million doses of Pfizer’s bivalent vaccines from the COVAX facility. The shots are expected to arrive in the country before the end of March.
Since the Philippines started its inoculation program in March 2021, more than 73.8 million or 94.54 percent of the eligible population in the country have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Of the figure, over 21.3 million have received their first boosters while 3.8 million have gotten their second boosters.
DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, appealed to the private sector not to procure doses of the COVID-19 bivalent vaccines yet to avoid further vaccine wastage.
“We are strongly advising the private sector at this point to just rely on the national government’s procurement so that we can prevent further wastage of our vaccines since we still have a lot of these
monovalent vaccines in the country which we can use as boosters for our population,” Vergeire said.
The private sector is allowed to procure the second-generation vaccines targeted against the Omicron variant through the mechanisms of the national government.
But Vergeire said around 26 million COVID-19 vaccines remain unused.
Of these unused vaccines, around 16 million doses are in the national warehouse, while 10 million have been distributed to various local government units.
That’s on top of the 24 million doses that have already expired, she said.
So far, the Food and Drug Administration has already issued an emergency use authorization for the bivalent vaccines of Moderna and Pfizer.