The country representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) has come short of calling the Philippines’ vaccination program against Covid-19 as being turtle-paced.
“We may have progressed but unfortunately, the progress in the Philippines has been painfully slow,” Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a “Laging Handa” briefing.
“This is unfortunate, it is unsatisfactory,” the WHO official said as he blamed the slow vaccination progress to the inequitable distribution of the jabs.
Data from the National Vaccination Operations Center showed that 17,078,66 individuals, representing 22.14 percent of the target vaccinees in the country, are now fully vaccinated.
The partially vaccinated individuals are now at 22,063,529 or 28.60 percent of the target population.
In Metro Manila, the country’s virus epicenter, 6,000,763 individuals or 61 percent of the target are now fully protected against the respiratory disease.
Partially vaccinated individuals are over 8.4 million or equivalent to 86.55 percent of the target population.
The WHO has blamed rich countries for hoarding vaccine supplies, including some already rolling out booster shots for their citizens while many people around the world have yet to get their first dose.
Abeyasinghe said that even for frontline health workers, studies have yet to affirm the need for booster shots. He also rued that many more senior citizens are yet to be vaccinated despite their being vulnerable to the virus.
“As COVAX delivers more and more vaccines, we urge protecting the most vulnerable as quickly as possible and that includes the elderly,” he added, referring to the group that facilitates the distribution of vaccines from donor nations to countries like the Philippines.
Abeyasinghe lamented that nearly 3.6 million senior citizens in the country’s target population have yet to receive a single dose of the vaccines.
He added that seven of 10 Covid-19 deaths involved people aged 60 and above.
“You have about 80 percent of your elderly fully vaccinated in NCR (National Capital Region). This is good but there are areas in the country where the elderly vaccination coverage is below 40 percent,” he said.
He also called on the government to act immediately and to create avenues to vaccinate more senior citizens.
“We have noticed the predominance of the Delta variant globally. Several countries in our region are reporting around 20,000 cases and it is not unique in the Philippines,” he said.
The Philippines posted its highest single-day tally on Sunday after it logged 26,303 Covid-19 cases.
“We don’t see a need at this point in time for universal booster doses for all healthcare workers,” Abeyasinghe said.
“We don’t have the evidence that people who have already received two doses of WHO EUA (emergency use authority) granted vaccines require a third dose,” he said.
He added that all of WHO EUA-listed Covid-19 vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease and death.
Abeyasinghe said the WHO is working closely with research institutions and partner organizations to determine the need for booster shots or lack thereof.
However, he said, there may be an exception for immunocompromised individuals who may be required to get another dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
“The only exception to this is when those two doses have not been able to generate the required immunity because certain people have immunocompromised situations in their bodies and those people may require a third dose,” he added.
Immunocompromised individuals may be senior citizens or individuals who may have immune problems, according to the official.