NTF assures PH 'can consume all vaccines' as Hong Kong plans to throw expiring jabs

Published May 26, 2021, 2:51 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 expressed optimism on Wednesday, May 26, that the country will be able to consume all eight million vaccines in its inventory before they get expired as vaccine hesitancy continues to affect the immunization program in parts of the world.

“May guarantee naman sa ating healthcare workers at local government units [LGUs] na kayang ubusin po lahat ng mga bakunang dumating lalo na po ‘yong mag-e-expire tulad ng AstraZeneca (There is a guarantee from our healthcare workers and local government units that they can consume all vaccines that were delivered especially the ones expiring such as AstraZeneca),” said NTF Spokesperson Restituto Padilla Jr in a virtual “Laging Handa” press briefing.

Padilla was reacting to a media query about the efforts of the task force to prevent a similar situation in Hong Kong where a member of their COVID-19 task force reportedly said their government could thrown away millions of vaccines that are nearing expiration date.

According to a report Tuesday by Yahoo News citing Thomas Tsang, of Hong Kong’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, vaccine hesitancy among the people in Hong Kong could force their government to throw away millions of Pfizer vaccines.

Vaccine hesitancy is defined by the World Health Organization as “the delay in [the] acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite [the] availability of vaccine services.”

At present, the Philippines has received a total of 8,279,500 vaccine doses since February, of which, more than seven million were distributed to various hospitals nationwide.

These include some two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donations from the COVAX facility that are set to expire in June and July.

Padilla said the vaccines were being poured in “high-risk” areas or those with high number of cases to expedite the inoculation of the priority sectors: frontline healthcare workers (A1), senior citizens (A2), and persons with co-morbidities (A3).

“May mga issue na rin ang DOH [Department of Health] at sinabi na rin ni [Health] Undersecretary [Maria Rosario] Vergeire na may proportional na distribution ng mga bakuna. Karamihan po ng mga bakuna ay pupunta sa surge areas kung saan mataas ang kaso para matulungan natin maproktetahan ang A1 to A3 category at maibaba ang posibilidad na pagkalat nito sa vulnerable sa communities (The DOH has issued directives and Undersecretary Vergeire has said that there is a proportional distribution of vaccines. Most of the vaccines are going into the surge areas where there are high number of cases to help them protect the A1 to A3 category and bring dow the possibility of spreading [the disease] to other vulnerable [individuals] in the communities),” Padilla explained.

He also noted that the national government is ramping up its immunization program to entice more people to get the vaccines.

In June, the national government is planning to start the inoculation of economic and government frontliners (A4) and indigent population (A5) to further speed up the immunization program.

The government is targeting to conduct 500,000 vaccinations per day and once this is achieved, Padilla said the problem on potential vaccine wastage due to vaccine hesitancy will be addressed.

“Marami pa po siguro ang nag-i-isip at medyo hesitating pa pero kinalaunan po, kapag nakita na maaaring mainam at maayos ang lahat ng bakunang ito at nabibigyan ng proteksyon ang mamamayan, ay magpapabakuna na rin po sila (A lot of people are still hesitating but later on, once they see that the vaccines are good and capable of protecting the citizens, they will be encouraged to get vaccinated too),” Padilla said.

An independent survey by Pulse Asia in March said that around 61 percent of Filipinos have shunned getting the shot against COVID-19.

However, Padilla claimed the number of Filipinos who want to get vaccinated have since increased to 50 percent, although he did not cite what firm conducted the survey and when the results were released.