By Fernan Angeles
GIVEN the tall task of securing supplies for international pharmaceutical companies behind the COVID-19 vaccines, there is no way to be able to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos in a span of one year, says Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire.
Echoing the statement of National Task Force vs. COVID-19 chief Carlito Galvez, Jr. who earlier said that the vaccination of over 100 million Filipinos would take five years or 20 million annually, Vergeire cited the government’s inadequate resources and the difficulties in cornering a chunk of the dosages from international pharmaceutical companies behind the COVID-19 vaccines.
“If we can have it implemented in one year, we would want that very much but we are faced with the reality which is lack of resources. We do not have much vaccine that we can get a hold of in 2021,” Vergeire said.
“We don’t have a sufficient amount of vaccines to be able to achieve the targeted 70% [of the population], and there is also an implementation challenge,” she added.
Interestingly, Vergeire cited that DOH had been able to meet a target of vaccinating 85% of 22.9 million Filipinos in one month 22 years ago.
However, “things have changed,” even as she hinted on the government’s best effort.
“We will see how we will be able to vaccinate as many people at a specific time. There are challenges, factors have to be considered such as logistical component,” Vergeire said.
“Iyong five years, that is reasonable, considering iyong requirements ng immunization, but whether that it is early, late, we are not going to say that,” she added.
“What we can say is we will strategize, and we will start off with the vulnerable sector such as the health care workers since they are the ones frequently exposed,” Vergeire said.
Vergeire said other members of the vulnerable sector were the elderly who are susceptible to sickness and the indigents who do not have enough resources to pay for health care.
“We will start with removing the threat and risk in vulnerable sectors because that would provide more benefit to the population,” Vergeire said.
Earlier, the private sector, the Philippine government and British firm AstraZeneca inked a vaccine supply agreement for the procurement of 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Half of the supplies would be donated to the government while the other half would be administered to the employees of the sponsor private corporations.
The 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19, per AstraZeneca, will be enough for one million people.
The AstraZeneca deal is the first COVID-19 vaccine supply agreement that the Philippines has secured.
Based on results of its human clinical trials, AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine’s efficacy reached 70% after first half dose but it increases to 90% after administration of second full dose a month after the first half dose is given.
Likewise, AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 is cheaper since it does not require ultra low freezer storage unlike that of COVID-19 vaccines made by American firms Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna which were found 94% effective after human trials.