NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews /15 May) — The country had an inventory of 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from February to April. As of May 4, only 2 million doses had been administered, that is, at the rate of some 30,769 doses/day.
This slow pace is alarming for it may yet put to waste maybe quarter of a million vaccine doses that are said to expire by the end of May. Authorities claimed, however, that it currently administers around 65,877 doses/day, which is more than double the March-April rollout rate.
Accordingly, the country is expecting to receive a total of 7,753,450 doses this month of May. At present vaccination pace of 65,877 doses/day as claimed, it would take around 108 days or from May up to the middle of August for such inventory to be expended. This endangers the 2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility of the World Health Organization (WHO) that are to expire by the end of June.
The current rollout rate needs still doubling so that the inventory is consumed in two months. This is crucial as the country’s vaccine inventory is rising. According to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, 10.05 million more vaccine doses will arrive in June, enlarging, thus, the country’s inventory at 21,829,050 doses by the end of the month.
The accelerating global production of COVID -19 vaccine and the facilitation of the WHO in the purchase, acquisition and distribution through its COVAX facility is beneficial to us. Moreover, the standby funds from our annual budget and loans for the purpose will enable us to purchase the needed vaccines with no foreseeable hitches.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) approved a total of $900 million worth of loans for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response in March 2021.
The ADB approved a $400-million (P19.4-billion) loan for the Philippines to purchase COVID-19 vaccines. Under the terms, the ADB will pay vaccine suppliers directly, an excellent safety net from fund diversion or corruption.
Under the present circumstances, the government ought to focus on the goal of attaining herd immunity at the shortest time possible to hasten the opening of the economy, ensure a resilient recovery and restore jobs and incomes to the populace.
Attaining herd immunity requires inoculating 70% of the population or some 77 million of our people. This requires 154 million doses of vaccine. If our target to attain herd immunity is in three years, say, by the middle of 2024, we should be dispensing vaccine at 51 million doses/year or at around 139,726 doses/day.
It’s apparent that the access to the vaccine no longer poses a great problem. The big challenge is on streamlining the vaccine rollout.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the Department of Health (DOH) need to constantly revisit their time and motion studies in identifying the critical bottlenecks of the rollout and in making breakthroughs.
Meanwhile, the idea of engaging big private establishments in tapping their medical staff and facilities in the vaccination of their employees is worth pursuing as this may expand and fast track the vaccine rollout.
Pre-registration and screening of targeted persons for the jab as practiced now should not be limited to a particular priority group but must include the next priority group so immediate substitution may be accomplished.
And in the case of vaccines whose expiry date is fast approaching, it might be prudent and practical to administer them to those willing even if outside the priority list.
Lest we forget, communication plays a vital role in every aspect of the great endeavor.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental)