DOH allows Metro Manila LGUs to vaccinate more in race vs Delta

The Department of Heath (DOH) announced on Monday, August 2, that local governments in Metro Manila will be allowed to vaccinate any person who is willing to get a COVID-19 shot, even if they are not included in eligible priority groups, as the country races to contain the spread of the highly-transmissible Delta variant.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters in a press briefing that expanding the population of eligible individuals was consistent with the government’s strategy to keep Delta at bay, though supplies for now may still be insufficient to cover demand. 

Lahat ng gusto magpabakuna maari na magpabakuna pero depende pa rin kasi 'yan sa supply (Everyone who wants to get vaccinated can now get vaccinated but that will still depend on supply),” Vergiere said. 

“Once supplies arrive, we will give that to NCR (National Capital Region) LGUs and we will be expanding sectors who we will vaccinate to reach that immunity we want for this epicenter in NCR,” she added.

Metro Manila – the epicenter of the country’s epidemic since the start of the health crisis – is scheduled to return to lockdown measures from August 6 to 20, as it faces an increase in COVID-19 cases viewed by experts as “serious.”

Unlike previous surges seen in July to August 2020 and March to April of 2021, risks posed by Delta have made vaccination even more urgent as the variant is now regarded as "the fastest and the fittest” variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Local officials requested the national government to provide them with at least 4 million doses to ramp up vaccinations – 2.5 million doses of which have been secured. 

But while supplies remain limited, Vergeire said the DOH reminded local governments that vulnerable populations like health workers (A1,) the elderly (A2), and persons with comorbodites (A3) should still come first.

“Now that we are trying to ramp up our vaccination…we still need to prioritize our A1, A2, and A3 because we know that they have bigger chances of getting hospitalized if infected with COVID-19. They will be contributing to heathcare utilization and might overwhelm the system,” she added.

Other measures

Aside from opening vaccination to all those willing to get vaccinated in Metro Manila, the DOH said local governments can conduct vaccination activities every day, around the clock, if they have the capacity to do so. 

Vergeire said the health department would leave it to local officials to determine if this was possible, based on the current capacity of vaccination teams and sites. 

During the upcoming enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Vergeire said walk-in vaccinations will not be allowed and all vaccinations must be scheduled. “No walk-ins…. We will have strict scheduling to avoid mass gatherings in our vaccination sites,” she said. 

Local governments will also be urged to provide transportation to and from vaccination sites during ECQ when transportation is expected to be limited, she added. All individuals with scheduled vaccinations, whether for first or second doses, will likewise be allowed to leave their homes. 

Aside from this, Vergeire said adequate ventilation, space, and observance of minimum health protocols will be implemented in sites to cope with the dangers posed by Delta. 

In a separate briefing, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos said Metro Manila mayors want to reach 250,000 jabs a day, up from the current 110,000 to 200,000 doses administered. 

But Abalos admitted this may be challenging to reach during the typhoon season and if hospitals become overwhelmed prompting the need to divert more health workers to treat patients. 

Earlier, Dr. Jonas del Rosario, spokesperson of the Philippine General Hospital, said there has been a “consistent" rise in admissions due to the coronavirus over the past few day from 100 to 143 patients as of August 1. PGH is the country's biggest dedicated hospital for COVID-19. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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