WHO PH urges LGUs to prioritize vaccination of senior citizens

A Manila health worker prepares to administer a single-shot Johnson & Johnson's Janssen coronavirus vaccine during the inoculative drive at the Justo Lucban Elementary School in Manila on July 21, 2021. (Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

The World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines has called on the local government units (LGUs) in the country to prioritize the vaccination among senior citizens in their respective jurisdiction amid rising threat from the Delta variant of COVID-19 virus.

WHO Philippines expressed its concern over the " sluggish COVID-19 vaccination rate among senior citizens in some LGUs."

"The slow rollout among senior citizens leaves the Philippines vulnerable to its hospitals being overwhelmed due to severe cases among the elderly, and possibly higher deaths due to a surge in cases from the fast-spreading Delta variant confirmed to be locally transmitted," it said in a statement on Friday, July 30.

"To date, only 2.1 million of the 8.5 million master-listed senior citizens (around 25 percent) in the Philippines have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19," it added.

The WHO said that senior citizens are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. It said that by prioritizing the vaccine supply to the A2 group, this will "help save more lives and will reduce the potential overwhelming of hospitals."

It also added that seven out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the Philippines are from the A2 group.

"We are very concerned that most of our older, more vulnerable people are still missing out on essential, life-saving vaccines against COVID-19," said WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.

"Not vaccinating most of our elderly now means more of them will suffer from severe illness and death. This is unacceptable when we already have adequate vaccine stocks to protect them,” he added.

"We urgently call on our local chief executives to please prioritize the vaccination of the elderly by setting up special avenues including, if possible, door-to-door vaccination,” he furthered.

The WHO said that achieving 100 percent coverage among senior citizens is not an impossible task.

"LGUs such as Pasig City and Las Piñas City have already provided all their master-listed senior citizens with at least one dose of the vaccine and are working towards to fully vaccinating their elderly population. WHO commends LGUs and local chief executives who made this possible and urges other LGUs to adopt practices that contributed to this success," it said.

The WHO expressed hope that other LGUs will also achieve their vaccination target for the A2 group.

“We remain positive that with the determination of our local leaders and with inspiration drawn from LGUs that have fully vaccinated most of their senior citizens, the Philippines is on its way to achieving high coverage in the A2 category," said Abeyasinghe.

"The country has shown the strength of its bayanihan spirit in past immunization campaigns. We expect the same solidarity in vaccinating and saving the lives of the elderly,” he added.