The Department of Health (DOH) said it will welcome any investigation with regards to the implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination program.
Senator Risa Hontiveros recently filed a resolution that seeks to “investigate reports of unused and expired Covid-19 vaccines.”
“Ang Kagawaran ng Kalusugan ay handa naman pong sumagot sa kahit anong katanungan o kaya imbestigasyon ukol po dito sa ating (The Department of Health is ready to answer any question or investigation regarding our) Vaccine Deployment Program which include the wastage of vaccines,” said DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire on Aug. 5.
Vergeire said that the country’s vaccine wastage is less than the 10 percent threshold set by the World Health Organization.
“Hindi natin ikakaila na may nag expire na bakuna. Amin pong sasagutin ito sa tamang forum (We cannot deny that there were expired vaccines. We will answer this in the proper forum),” she said.
Aside from expiration, there are several factors that make a vaccine unfit for use, said Vergeire. These factors include damage in vials when they were delivered, destroyed due to calamities or fire, power outages, among others.
“Ang wastage po ng bakuna (Vaccine wastage) is part of the program of vaccine deployment. Hindi naman po iyan nawawala sa bawat pagbabakuna sa bawat programang pinapatupad. Nagkataon lamang po na kailangan natin maipaliwanag sa ating mga kababayan kung bakit nasisira ang bakuna (That is part of every vaccination program being implemented. It just happens that we need to explain to our citizens why these vaccines were damaged),” said Vergeire.
Last July 27, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said more than four million vaccine doses worth P5.1 billion, which were procured by the private sector, have already expired.
On July 28, DOH Officer-in-Charge Undersecretary of Public Health Services Team Beverly Ho said they are coordinating with vaccine global sharing platform COVAX Facility if these vaccines can be replaced.
Vergeire said prioritization is no longer being implemented in Covid-19 vaccination.
“We do not have any prioritization list anymore. The very objective why we had prioritization before kasi po kulang pa yung bakuna natin nung naguumpisa tayo magpabakuna (was because our vaccine supply was still insufficient when we started the vaccination) and that was about of March 2021,” she said.
“Hanggang siguro po third quarter of 2021, pinapatupad natin ang prioritization kasi hindi pa ganoon kadami ang ating bakunang supplies noon (Until maybe the third quarter of 2021, we were implementing the prioritization because our vaccine supplies then were not that high),” she added.
Currently, the Philippines has an ample supply of vaccines against Covid-19, said Vergeire. “Supplies are sufficient until the end of this year,” she said.
The DOH official once again urged the public to get vaccinated.
“Lahat ng tinatawag nating eligible population maari nang magpabakuna. Actually wala na tayong schedules ngayon sa mga local governments (All eligible population can now get vaccinated. Actually we don’t have schedules anymore in the local governments),” she said.
“Kapag kayo ay pumunta at magpapabakuna kahit walk-in babakunahan kayo, as long as you are eligible (When you go there, even walk-in, you can get vaccinated, as long as you are eligible),” she added.
As of Aug. 5, more than 71.8 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated. Around 16.4 million individuals have already received their first booster shot.