Speaker seeks NCR Plus priority for vaccine rollout

Published May 3, 2021, 3:10 PM

by Ben Rosario

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has called on the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to prioritize the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus and other urban centers with high concentration of coronavirus cases in the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine rollout.

However, Velasco stressed that this should be done only after all medical frontliners in the country are fully inoculated against the deadly disease.

The World Health Organization disclosed that at least 37 percent of Philippine medical frontliners are not yet assured of COVID-19 protection as of the third week of April.

Dr. Rabindra ABeyasinghe, WHO representative to Philippines, revealed that only 63 percent of healthcare workers have already received their jabs.

The Department of Health data indicated that at least 960,000 health workers have received the first dose while 191,982 have completed vaccination dosage.

“As we await large supplies of vaccines to come in, we urge the IATF to prioritize NCR Plus and other urban centers in our vaccine rollout so we can quell the surge in new infections in those areas,” Velasco pointed out.

He added: “But first and foremost, let us vaccinate all 1.7 million health care workers all over the country to make sure they are protected against COVID-19.

Aside from the NCR Plus, Velasco said the national government should also give priority vaccine allocation to Mega Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and other regional centers across the country.

NCR Plus is composed of the cities and municipality in Metro Manila, and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. It has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, which is largely attributed to fast-spreading coronavirus variants.

Velasco backed health care experts who said that the best defense against the “superspreader variants” would be to inundate these areas with vaccines.

Vaccine supply in the country remained low despite assurances made by officials that 10 million doses will be available by June this year while another 15 to 20 million doses will be delivered by August.

The vaccine shortage in the first two quarters of the year were blamed either to the stockpiling of supplies by developed nation or officials’ bungling of negotiations with vaccine manufacturers and suppliers.

The country now tallied over a million verified cases of COVID-19. The Department of Health has been reporting daily average of 8,000 new cases since March.

According to Velasco, it would be prudent at this point to concentrate inoculation efforts toward areas where the health systems are vulnerable.

“Our efforts should be strategic as we wait for the time until our vaccine supplies become stable,” Velasco said.