ASIDE from health workers, elderly Filipinos and those with pre-existing medical conditions are now eligible to receive a vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Monday, March 29, 2021, that vaccinations will now be simultaneous for Priority Groups A1, A2 and A3.
She said local government units (LGUs), particularly those prioritized for vaccinations, were given on Saturday, March 27, the go signal to administer the vaccine to the three groups.
Vaccinations for Group A1, which consists of around 1.76 million active healthcare workers, began on March 1, a day after the arrival of the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine donated by China. It was the first vaccine shipment to reach the country.
Group A2 is made up of over 9.0 million elderly or senior citizens (60 years old and above), while Group A3 is composed of around 14.5 million persons with underlying medical conditions or comorbidities.
In Central Visayas, the DOH 7 will administer the vaccine to senior citizens and persons with comorbidities as long as the LGUs are ready, said Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of the health agency regional office.
Loreche said the LGUs must have the master lists containing the names of senior citizens and persons with comorbidities who are eligible for the vaccination.
“We cannot vaccinate if they are not included in the master list,” she said.
More vaccination sites are needed, and the inoculations could be held in barangays or in hospitals.
Loreche said they favored the private hospitals as the vaccination sites for the elderly as these facilities are safe.
The elderly and sickly persons who want to be vaccinated must enlist themselves in the LGUs’ master list. The LGUs will give them instructions on what to do.
Loreche urged the senior citizens and persons with comorbidities to inoculate themselves.
“They should not be afraid because vaccines are safe and effective, and we really want to protect the vulnerable sector right now. That means our seniors and those with comorbidities, and we want them to get vaccinated,” she said.
Meanwhile, the DOH central office has given senior citizens in the National Capital Region (NCR) until March 31, 2021 to register for vaccination. Those outside NCR have until April 5, 2021.
Active health workers still have until the end of March to register.
Vergeire said ramping up vaccinations was identified by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases as a key strategy in slowing down Covid-19 transmission in the country.
Learning from the experience of other countries, Vergeire said this would be done by conducting simultaneous vaccinations of several priority groups instead of completing Group A1 first.
Dr. John Wong, resident epidemiologist for the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (Nitag), said it is important to vaccinate the elderly as soon as possible because they are five times more likely to develop severe Covid-19 and 10 times more likely to die.
It is also vital to provide protection to persons with comorbidities because these heighten the risk of severe disease and death.
“Because of the scarcity of vaccines, we have to prioritize those at highest risk of hospitalizations and deaths. After the health workers, these are the two groups of Filipinos who need to be protected,” Wong said.
Among those with comorbidities, first priority will be given to those with the following conditions: chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, malignancy, diabetes mellitus, obesity and chronic liver disease.
Persons with any of the seven diseases may show a medical certificate within the last 18 months or prescription within the last six months from their physician to register for the vaccine.
Vergeire said they will be subjected to a medical assessment at the vaccination site, like all other vaccinees. Only those whose conditions are controlled will be inoculated, she stressed.
She said the DOH will soon issue guidelines on the vaccination of Group A3.
“We are finalizing our protocol so we can release it within the day,” Vergeire said.
On Monday, March 29, President Rodrigo Duterte led the welcoming party at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City for the arrival of one million doses of CoronaVac vaccines of Sinovac Biotech, the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines purchased by the National Government.
In the morning of Tuesday, March 30, 7,200 doses of CoronaVac arrived in Cebu, said Loreche
Cebu is also set to receive 14,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.
The latest arrivals for Cebu can inoculate 10,800 individuals.
The National Government expects the arrival of 979,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from the World Health Organization’s Covax Facility.
The National Government still has ongoing negotiations with different pharmaceutical companies to secure vaccines for 70 million Filipinos to achieve herd immunity. (MVI, KFD / SunStar Philippines)