PH gov’t eyes scaling up of COVID-19 vaccination by April and May – Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   March 31, 2021   •   411

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is looking to boost its vaccination drive against COVID-19 as part of its calibrated strategy to contain the virus and revive the economy, vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte, Galvez said 2021 is intended for a “containment strategy with the government securing steady vaccine supply and scaling up its vaccination through the mobilization of the national government, LGUs, and the private sector.”

Under the strategy, the government will scale up vaccination in April and May, targeting to inoculate 500,000 to one million per week.

Galvez said that once the bulk of the vaccines arrive in June and July, the government eyes to increase vaccination up to three million per week. From August to December, three million to five million per week.

“Ang parang pinakatarget po natin is we will have a better Christmas sa 2021,” Galvez said in a televised briefing on Monday.

To achieve herd immunity, Galvez stressed that there is a need to maximize the vaccination drive, with the government administering more or less 450,000 to 500,000 doses a day.

“The main goal is to completely eliminate COVID-19,” Galvez said.

To achieve this, he said they are communicating with the different vaccine manufacturers developing booster vaccines that can neutralize new COVID-19 variants.

“The government will authorize local pharmaceuticals companies to directly communicate with their foreign counterparts in order for the country to attain vaccine security by 2022,” he added.

The vaccine czar said the Philippine government is looking at India’s self-sufficiency strategy, stressing that if the country can establish its own manufacturing capability, there is no need for the importation of vaccines and other medicines.

“So iyon po ang isang nakita po namin na magkaroon po tayo sana ng aside from the Universal Health Care Law, magkaroon po sana tayo ng Health Security Act na ‘yong ating DOH at ang ating health care system will be modernized,” he said.

“So to 2023, at least we can start ‘yong health self-sufficiency to next pandemic so that we can prepare just in case na magkaroon po ng next pandemic,” he added.

The government targets to inoculate 1.7 million health workers. So far, 668,018 healthcare workers have been vaccinated.

No need for vital signs screening before COVID-19 vaccination, DOH says

Robie de Guzman   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The vital signs screening will no longer be included in the vaccination process against COVID-19 as part of efforts to expedite the immunization in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

In an online press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have already issued guidelines regarding the matter after DOH advisors and vaccination experts approved the recommendation from the Philippine Heart Association and the Philippine Society of Hypertension.

She said the new policy was approved after a DOH time and motion study found that walk-in vaccine recipients and the vital signs screening were causing long queues in vaccination sites.

“Meron na ngayong patakaran here in Metro Manila ang ating mga local government, only those master listed should go to the vaccination site kaya lang ngayon siyempre ang mga kababayan natin, very eager sila na magpabakuna na kahit hindi sila yung scheduled for that day, they go to the vaccination site, so that’s one,” Vergeire said.

“Pangalawa, nakita natin na there are certain processes within our system na nakakatagal talaga and one of those would be the vital signs screening, yung pag-BP (blood pressure), pagkuha ng temperature, pagkuha ng pulse rate, ng heart rate,” she added.

Under the new guidelines, Vergeire said that healthcare workers only need to closely monitor individuals with established hypertension or organ damage prior to their vaccination.

“Ang kailangan lang nating bantayan, especially for the blood pressure, would be yung blood pressure na 180/120 or more. Pero yung iba, kahit tumataas yung presyon, maaari pa rin naman natin silang bakunahan,” she said.

“Naglagay rin tayo sa guidelines natin na there should be a separate lane para sa mga taong gusto nating obserbahan because of their established history ng kaniang mga sakit para hindi po sila nakakadagdag doon sa pila,” she added.

Vergeire also said that the DOH is eyeing to expand vaccination sites to help speed up the rollout.

The health official also noted that the public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines has increased citing a survey they conducted in March.

Vergeire said the poll showed that 75 percent of respondents said that they are willing to get immunized if a vaccine was available, and 85.8 percent said they would get inoculated if they knew that the vaccines were safe and effective.

“Nakita po natin yung pagtaas talaga ng kumpiyansa ng ating mga kababayan noong nakita nilang marami na ring nababakunahan,” she said.

The Philippines has so far administered over 2.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with over 500,000 who are fully vaccinated.

PH extends ban on travelers from India to May 31; adds Oman, UAE in travel restrictions

Robie de Guzman   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has extended its existing ban on travelers from India until May 31 to prevent the spread of a coronavirus variant first detected in the South Asian nation, Malacañang said.

In a statement on Friday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said passengers coming from India are still not allowed to enter the Philippines until 2359H of May 31, 2021.

The Philippines also extended its travel ban for passengers coming from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka in the same period.

Roque also announced the expansion of the country’s travel restrictions to include travelers coming from Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or those with travel history to these countries within the last 14 days preceding arrival.

The entry ban on travelers from Oman and the UAE will take effect on May 15 until May 31.

Roque said the ban was recommended by the Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Passengers who are already in transit from the said countries or have been to the same areas within 14 days and arrived in the Philippines before May 15 will be allowed entry.

They will, however, be required to undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols, notwithstanding a negative Reverse Transcription – Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) result.

“The Department of Transportation should ensure that airlines are directed not to allow the boarding of passengers who are prohibited from entering the country pursuant to travel restrictions imposed by the Office of the President and IATF resolutions except if they are part of the repatriation efforts of the national government,” Roque said.

Duterte vows to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to LGUs ‘the fastest way we can’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte told local government units (LGU) to wait for the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines that recently arrived in the country.

During a televised briefing with some Cabinet members late Thursday, Duterte vowed the immediate distribution to LGUs of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses amid the “rising demand” for jabs among LGUs and concerns over the short shelf life of the vaccines.

“We will distribute the vaccines as fast as they come to our possession. So ganito yan, mapipilitan kasi ako kasi lahat naghihintay,” he said.

“Sabi nga ni ano (vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.), noon, it came in trickles. Ngayon, medyo volume-volume na, so maghintay lang kayo because these things must be distributed immediately the fastest way we can do it,” he added.

In his report, Galvez told the president that millions of COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to the country in the past few days and more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

He also mentioned that LGUs have been asking for more vaccine supplies amid the ongoing immunization drive.

“Public acceptance ng vaccine is growing. Maraming mga LGU ang tawag nang tawag sa atin na gusto nilang mag-add ng vaccines. Ibig sabihin talagang yung mga LGUs ay kinakapos na sila ng vaccine dahil marami na pong gustong magpa-vaccine,” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar reported that for the month of May, the Philippines will receive around 7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and around 10 million doses in June.

“Ang magiging inventory na po natin by the end of June is 21,829,050. So malaki na po ang magiging volume po natin by the end of June, ” he said.

Kayang-kaya na po niyan makuha yung A1, A2, A3 na priority po natin,” he added.

He, however, noted that the Philippines has a current inventory of 7,759,050 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Ito po Mr. President ang challenge natin na kailangan yung natitirang doses na nandoon sa ating inventory, yung 5,155,957 ay talagang maubos po natin ito the soonest possible time,” he said.

“Gumagawa po tayo ng tinatawag nating yung … tinitingnan po natin ang gaps kung bakit medyo mataas po ang ating inventory at gusto nating pababain ito within the next few days,” he added.

Galvez earlier assured that there will be no wastage of vaccines especially those that are nearing expiration following reports that 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine recently delivered are set to expire on June 30 while over 500,000 doses will expire in July.

Duterte called on local government units to make sure that vaccines distributed to their sites must be rolled out immediately since these have a short shelf life.

“We know that you can do it but see to it that the mechanism, yung infrastructure ninyo sa ibaba, kailangan must be able to come up with the numbers required kasi itong mga bakuna may expiry date ito,” he said.

“Kailangan pagdating sa inyo, mapatakbo na kaagad ang administrative pati local hospital so you will not waste the vaccine because we didn’t deliver it on time,” he added.

“I am just saying this because I do not want to lose the battle here thru negligence… The only problem is if you are not able to administer the vaccines on time because there is a limited period of time for their effectiveness,” he further stated.

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