WHO tells PH: Follow priority list when using COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX

Published May 24, 2021, 1:45 PM

by Jhon Aldrin Casinas

The World Health Organization (WHO) urged the Philippine government anew to follow the prioritization list on who gets the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine first as to maximize its impacts on the pandemic.

World Health Organization Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

WHO Philippines Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the COVAX facility has committed to provide the country with COVID-19 vaccines to cover 20 percent of its population.

He said the figure includes the A1 group or the frontline healthcare workers and the A2 group composed of the elderly population.

“We continue to urge the government to follow the prioritization to ensure that we achieve high coverages in the A1 and A2 groups,” Abeyasinghe said in a public briefing Monday, May 24.

“We do understand that there is a need to start protecting the other groups. But when we see that coverage particularly in the A2 group is around 10 percent, its still premature from our perspective to agree to use Covax vaccines to any of the other groups because while recognizing the other groups are important, it is clearly defined that the largest number of deaths and severe cases are from the A2 group,” he added.

Abeyasinghe noted that the WHO’s priority list should be observed to maximize the vaccines’ impact on the pandemic by reducing deaths, ensuring that the frontline healthcare workers are fully protected, and reducing congestion in the hospitals.

Malacañang announced last week that President Duterte has ordered the distribution of Pfizer vaccines to the indigent population as the government has ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to further boost the country’s supply.

As of date, the vaccines that have arrived in the country from the Covax facility are the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccines which have already been deployed to vaccination sites across the country.

“And so we continue to urge the government and the local government units rolling out Covax vaccines to ensure that they follow the prioritization to maximize the impact of the vaccines donated by the Covax facility,” he said.

The WHO has earlier reminded the country to follow the prioritization list if it wants to ensure “a smooth delivery of vaccines” from the Covax facility.

With the recent surge in cases in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, and with the emergence of the new variants, the WHO official underscored the importance of following the prioritization list to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected adequately.

“As we get larger and larger stocks of vaccines, and as we reach relatively high coverage, we can start looking at protecting other groups,” Abeyasinghe said.

“But our position has been that we need to respect the prioritization simply to increase the impact that the vaccines are providing in regards to controlling this pandemic,” he added.