'Vax to the Max': Galvez eyes scrapping of priority list in COVID-19 vaccination

Published October 20, 2021, 10:28 AM

by Martin Sadongdong

Secretary Carito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), is considering the removal of “priorities” in the vaccination program to pave the way for the inoculation of all individuals who are willing to get the jab.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. talks to the media during the arrival of 844,800 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 that are donated by Germany to the Philippines on Oct. 15, 2021. (Photo: NTF Against COVID-19)

Galvez said the NTF has met with the private sector and such was among their recommendations dubbed as “Vax to the Max” where the government will have to accommodate those who want to be vaccinated instead of following a priority list, thus, creating a bandwagon effect.

“Their [private sector] first proposal is called Vax to the Max. This means that we have to vaccinate all the willings. We will do away with the sequential [strategy] and we will widen [the coverage] so that those who want to get the vaccine can do so,” Galvez told President Duterte during a “Talk to the People” public address on Tuesday night, Oct. 19.

The government has been following a World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended priority list in its vaccination program. Currently, among those prioritized are the healthcare workers (A1), senior citizens (A2), persons with co-morbidities (A3), economic frontliners (A4), and indigent population (A5).

But with the Vax to Max strategy, Galvez said it is seen to significantly raise the daily vaccine throughput to 1.5 million doses from the current average of 400,000 to 500,000 administered jabs daily.

Aside from this, the private sector also proposed to the NTF to give “incentives” to fully vaccinated individuals to encourage more people to a the shot in the arm, which has already been discussed by Galvez to Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Ano.

“If they are vaccinated, they could be the only ones allowed to go out. They could be the only ones allowed to dine-in, travel, and they will have no restrictions,” Galvez said.

“That’s what Israel did, and they also subjected the unvaccinated to swab test every week, the expenses of which will be shouldered by them [unvaccinated]. So these are the vaccination mandates, meaning it will entice most of our unvaccinated to be vaccinated,” he added.

However, the strategy could pose a problem in far-flung and geographically isolated areas that are seldom reached by the supply of vaccines.

“We are addressing the logistical challenge at the regional, provincial, and municipal deployment and administration because we noticed that it takes more or less seven to nine days before the vaccines are deployed in the vaccination sites,” Galvez said.

Further, the private sector also proposed to the NTF to create a public-private task force that will address the constraints of the healthcare system such as the payments on Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), maintain masking and provide safe environment and ventilation on the community and also on the workplace, and prepare for the revaccination or third dosing of healthcare workers and the vulnerable sector by November or early December.