50% of Metro Manila's eligible population 'fully vaccinated'

50% of Metro Manila's eligible population 'fully vaccinated'

MANILA, Philippines — About half of the more than nine million residents of Metro Manila eligible for vaccination have received their second dose against COVID-19, Metro Manila Council chairman and Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez said yesterday.

“We have achieved population protection in the region. Those who have received their second dose (represent) 50 percent,” Olivarez said in Filipino.

Those who have received their first dose represent 70 percent of the population qualified for vaccination. He called the vaccination pace “very good.”

Metro Manila is under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until the end of the month. It was under the most restrictive ECQ until yesterday.

Authorities placed the National Capital Region under ECQ from Aug. 6 to 20 to stem the rise of COVID-19 cases, particularly the more transmissible Delta variant. Local government units (LGUs) stepped up the vaccination drive during ECQ.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos said 79 percent of the 585,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that arrived in the country would be distributed to 38 LGUs, while 21 percent would be given to private companies.

National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez earlier debunked a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey result showing “slow pace of vaccination.” He said that in Metro Manila alone, more than 230,000 jabs were administered on a single day for several days this month.

“And just this month, the country was able to administer around 700,000 in a day twice,” Galvez said in a statement.

“Yes, we believe that all of these efforts are still not enough. Based on our monitoring and evaluation, we have identified the areas in our vaccine program that need to be improved on, as we move closer to our goal of achieving herd immunity and soon expanding our inoculation program to the younger population,” he said.

Galvez said that the NTF would make sure that equal attention would be given to all regions and provinces in the vaccine rollout.

“Through our concerted efforts, we hope to see a continuous upward trend in our vaccines rollout,” Galvez said.

He said the SWS survey results “are both a confirmation and a testament that we have made major strides in the implementation of our vaccination program.”

“The results of the SWS survey also serve as an inspiration to the national government, local government units and the private sector to further improve their service delivery and make sure that Filipinos have access to these life-serving vaccines through the thousands of vaccination sites across the country,” he added.

Galvez said that with 68 percent of respondents, mostly from Metro Manila, claiming smooth access to vaccination sites, the government can safely claim it has been successful in reaching out to residents, particularly in high-risk and vulnerable areas.

“However, much work also needs to be done so that the 29 percent who said they have no access to vaccination sites can be served,” Galvez said.

“While major milestones have been accomplished since the conduct of the June 23 to 26 SWS survey, there is still a lot of room for improvement and expansion in our vaccine rollout, particularly in our deployment and administration strategy,” he added.

Galvez said that these measures include the activation of more vaccine sites and the hiring of additional vaccinators.

He said that during the second quarter, the government’s vaccine program was still trying to gain momentum because of the limited vaccine deliveries.

“This is why we made sure that the deployment of the limited doses will be directed to those areas with the highest economic and social risks, as well as groups with the highest burden of disease, hospitalization and death,” Galvez said.

He said the country’s cumulative vaccine doses in June only stood at 17,457,810 when the survey was conducted.

“This figure is significantly lower than the volumes that we received in two months for July and August, which now stands at 25,482,580 doses. By the end of this month, we expect to increase our cumulative inventory to more than 50 million doses as we expect to receive at least 20 million in the month of August alone,” Galvez pointed out.

He said that due to the limited supply in the second quarter, the average daily jab rate in June was only 179,605 as compared to the 315,366 in July and 488,455 in August.

“It was in July when we started to receive a steady supply of larger vaccine shipments. As a result, LGUs were able to increase their capacities to inoculate beyond their initial daily targets. And as LGU and private sector-procured vaccines arrived, many business establishments opened vaccination sites to cater to their employees as well as local residents,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Medical Students’ Association (PMSA) is open to the proposal of the NTF to tap medical students as vaccinators, but underscored the arrangement should be voluntary.

According to PMSA chairman Clark Trovela, there are medical students who have volunteered to help at COVID-19 inoculation centers.

“It is actually not new to us because many of us have already volunteered as vaccinators … So this (NTF proposal) should be voluntary,” he said in a phone interview.

He noted the government should also ensure that the students are protected since many of them have not received the COVID-19 jabs.

But Trovela has expressed surprise that the NTF has its eyes on them considering there are many trained health workers who are looking for employment, even temporary ones. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Sheila Crisostomo