New admin, same plea? NTF, DOH appeal to unvaxxed Pinoys: Get jabbed as new variants emerge

A year into the national vaccination program against Covid-19, the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 is still appealing to millions of unvaccinated Filipinos to seize the opportunity and get jabbed despite the improved pandemic situation in the country.

A young girl gets her Covid-19 vaccine in Muntinlupa City. (File photo courtesy of Munitnlupa City PIO)

Launched in March 2021, the national vaccination program against Covid-19 seeks to fully inoculate 90 million Filipinos against the dreaded disease to attain herd immunity.

Now, a new administration will come in with the national elections set on May 9 and yet the target seemed to be far from reach as only around 66 million individuals were deemed fully vaccinated as of April 3.

“We ask all of our kababayans to please get vaccinated and also, for those not yet up to date, to get boosted. Let us not wait for any possible new variants before we take action to protect ourselves and our families,” the NTF and the Department of Health (DOH) said in a joint statement on Monday night, April 4.

The NTF and DOH’s appeal came as the government faces a new dilemma: 27 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines are expiring in July, according to Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion.

“Most of the doses that will expire by July 2022 were either donated by other countries, or procured by local governments and the private sector,” the NTF and DOH explained.

They said they were working with manufacturers to extend the shelf life of vaccines “based on updated scientific data such as updated stability studies.”

“We will also continue and even intensify or innovate the measures meant to increase coverage of both the primary series and booster doses, and where needed, recommend that the Philippines donate excess yet viable doses as an international act of goodwill,” they said.

There were also reports about the existence of new Covid-19 variants in China while "Omicron XE,” a hybrid of Omicron strains BA.1 and BA.2, was blamed for the rise of the cases in the United Kingdom.

Amid these concerns, authorities assured that they were constantly innovating ideas to encourage more people to get vaccinated. They also disclosed that only two percent of the total vaccine supply that were procured by the national government were considered as “wastage."

This was “far less than the 10 percent indicative wastage rate” used by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the planning and forecasting of vaccine supply needs, the NTF and DOH argued.

“Not one country could have predicted and balanced, with reasonable certainty, the global supply and demand of vaccines amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the DOH, NTF, NVOC , LGUs , and private sector partners are taking steps to coordinate with all concerned to carefully use vaccines in our care,” the NTF and DOH said.

The NTF did not directly provide a number of vaccine doses that were deemed as wasted.

However, the government has acquired a total of 244,657,960 doses from its procurement, as well as from the donations of the Covax facility and other friendly nations as of April 2.

“Only two percent of Covid-19 vaccines procured by the national government are considered wastage, meaning, due to supply chain inefficiencies or errors in dose administration,” the NTF and DOH said.