Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the government cannot just use AstraZeneca coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines on essential workers listed under the A4 priority group as it breaches the condition set by the COVAX Facility.
Roque made the statement after former pandemic adviser Dr. Tony Leachon suggested measures to ramp up vaccinations, especially since AstraZeneca vaccines will be expiring starting next month.
In his press briefing on Monday, Roque said the government cannot just give AstraZeneca vaccines to those in the A4 category because it would violate the condition of COVAX.
“Ang COVAX, hindi nga po kasama ang [priority group] A4. Ang COVAX, dapat ang susunod na priority ay A5 o ang mahihirap dahil ang gusto nila equitable access to vaccines (The A4 Group cannot be given the COVAX shots. It should be for the A5 or the indigent because COVAX wants equitable access to vaccines),” he said.
He said the COVAX vaccines will instead be given to priority groups A1 to A3 and A5.
“Ang mangyayari po diyan, ang COVAX, ibibigay natin sa mahihirap. Yung mga binili nating vaccines, yun ang ibibigay natin sa A4 (What will happen is we will give the COVAX vaccines to the poor while the ones we bought will be for the A4 group),” Roque said.
“Hindi natin pwedeng labagin ang order of priority ng COVAX (We cannot violate the order of priority of COVAX),” he added.
According to Roque, the government has planned to expand the vaccination program to include A4 and A5 groups starting as early as June.
“Isasabay po natin ang A4 at A5 at ito ay magsisimula na tayo sa Hunyo, if not even earlier–possibly within the last week of May. Tignan po natin (We will simultaneously vaccinate the A4 and A5 groups starting June, if not earlier–possibly within the last week of May. We will see),” he said.
President Duterte has ordered the swift distribution of vaccines to local government units (LGUs), saying it would unacceptable if the country will lose the fight against COVID-19 just because the shots expired due to negligence.
“Ito, kailangan ng (This needs) handling, special kind of handling. It has to be — there’s a certain temperature that you have to maintain. Otherwise, you would lose out [on] everything. It would lose its effectiveness,” he said.
“I am just saying this because I do not want to lose the battle here through negligence,” he added.
The government rolled out its vaccination program on March 1 with medical frontliners as the priority (A1). Following them are mayors and governors (A1.5), senior citizens (A2), persons with comorbidities (A3), government and economic frontliners (A4), and the indigent population (A5).