The Philippines received a total of 2.28 million additional doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines from the Covax Facility on Thursday, which will be administered to those not yet vaccinated in the priority groups A1 to A3, comprised of healthcare workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
The Department of Health (DOH) said that prioritizing those most exposed and at risk of experiencing severe Covid infections would help prevent healthcare facilities from being overwhelmed, reduce the need for implementing more stringent quarantine measures, as well as guarantee the country’s economic revival.
“We will use these vaccines among our A1 to A3 priority groups. If we don’t vaccinate them we will encounter the same packed emergency rooms, unavailable intensive care units, and even hospital beds during the next surge. If you are already in the priority group but have not yet registered with your local government unit (LGU), please contact your LGU to get vaccinated. I urge everyone to choose to be vaccinated when it’s their turn to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said adding that the arrival of the vaccines is critical at this stage of the pandemic.
In addition to the ongoing vaccination of the A1 to A3 priority groups, the country has recently started vaccinating the A4 priority group — the frontline essential workers.
Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines, said, “While the DOH and the local government units have been making significant progress in vaccinating our healthcare workers, prioritizing the elderly and those with underlying health conditions is essential and needs to be accelerated.”
“Given the surge in cases in some regions, it is urgent to achieve high vaccination coverage in these A1 to A3 groups to protect those at risk of severe disease and death. WHO urges the National Task Force and the local government units to establish mechanisms to increase accessibility to vaccination of the healthcare workers and elderly across the country,” added Dr Abeyasinghe.
The DOH stressed that although global vaccine demand vastly exceeds supply, the Covax Facility continues to facilitate the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to the country. The Philippines has previously received 193,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the Covax Facility on May 10, 2021.
“The additional 2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are definitely a huge step that would contribute to our joint effort to overcome Covid-19,” said Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, Unicef Philippines Representative.
“The sooner we address the pandemic’s severe and widespread impact on public health and well-being, the sooner we are able to strengthen primary health care services for all, especially children. We continue to advocate for equitable vaccine access to reach more of the vulnerable populations. We at Unicef remain committed to do our part to ensure a healthier, safer, and more conducive environment for children and their families,” she added.
The arrival of Covid-19 vaccines is an important moment – though it will not be a quick fix and it will take some time before enough people are vaccinated to have an impact on the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the public, vaccinated or not, according to DOH, should not let their guard down and is reminded to adhere to minimum public health standards and other safety protocols such as physical distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, and avoiding crowds, close-contact settings, and confined spaces.