The Department of Health (DOH) will set up special vaccination sites that will be dedicated to immunizing persons with comorbidities as health officials seek to further ramp up vaccinations among the high-risk group.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje gave the update in a virtual briefing on Tuesday, August 3, saying vaccinations for the priority group, along with those of the elderly, have become more urgent in recent weeks as the country faces threats posed by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“We what we are going to do is set up special hubs for special groups…so they will be vaccinated in special areas where they do not need to mingle with people in other areas,” Cabotaje said in Filipino.
Among the groups the DOH wanted to reach through special vaccine hubs include immunocompromised individuals like persons living with HIV and those receiving treatment for cancer.
Cabotaje added that the DOH planned to set up the special vaccination sites in treatment hubs where these patients go to treatment.
As for senior citizens who were also highly vulnerable to COVID-19, Cabotaje said local governments have been more aggressive with information campaigns, registration, and house-to-house vaccination activities to reach more elderly in their communities.
The DOH has also set aside most single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines for senior citizens. Cabotaje said this had been a big boost to increasing coverage among the group, many of whom were difficult to reach through online sign-ups or preference to give way to younger family members.
Aside from this, Cabotaje said the DOH would allow local governments to facilitate walk-in vaccinations only for senior citizens during the upcoming enhanced community quarantine from August 6 to 20. Walk-in vaccinations had been prohibited earlier during the lockdown period to minimize the risk of forming crowds in vaccination sites.
Why this matters
In recent weeks, health officials have urged local governments to hammer down on increasing uptake of vaccines among senior citizens and persons with comorbidities – two high-risk priority groups – as infections have increased nationwide and the more contagious Delta variant has been detected in the country.
As of August 2, Cabotaje said about 48.4% or 3.4 million persons with comorbities have been fully vaccinated, while 2.6 million of 32.5% of senior citizens were fully vaccinated.
“We need to keep saying this – if you have pre-existing illness or comorbidities, all the more you need to get vaccinated because if you get COVID, you may not die of COVID but the complications from your comorbidities,” Cabotaje said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In April, as vaccination for the two priority groups started, epidemiologist Dr John Wong said that DOH COVID-19 data over the past year showed that though most infections were common among the working population, elderly Filipinos who got infected were five times more likely to have severe COVID-19 and 10 times more likely to die.
The risks were similarly high for persons with comorbidity, said Dr Rontgene Solante, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Philippines’ vaccine expert panel. “In itself, the presence of the comorbidities and mortalities will really be the difference between life and death,” he said. – Rappler.com
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