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WHO: 7 In 10 COVID-19 Deaths In Phl Are Elderly; Vaccination For All Adults Eyed Next Month

WHO: 7 In 10 COVID-19 Deaths In Phl Are Elderly; Vaccination For All Adults Eyed Next Month
Senior citizens from Barangay 276, Zone 25, District 3 in Binondo, Manila receive their monthly allowance from the city government on August 5, 2021. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

With seven of 10 deaths from COVID-19 in the Philippines involving senior citizens, the World Health Organization (WHO) asked the country on Tuesday, Sept. 14, to ramp up its vaccination of the elderly.

According to WHO Philippines representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe, seven in 10 deaths related to COVID-19 in the Philippines are above 60 years old.

He also lamented the “painfully slow” progress of vaccination, noting that there are still almost 3.6 million elderly who have not received even a single shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is unfortunate, it is unsatisfactory. It’s also a reflection of the inequality that we are seeing globally happening within the country which we need to correct urgently,” Abeyasinghe said.

The WHO official also urged the government to protect most vulnerable “as quickly as possible” as the COVAX Facility delivers more vaccines to the Philippines.

“So if we really want to protect lives, we need to use the vaccines that are coming to protect these people,” he added.

New peak

The Department of Health (DOH) reported that the country’s COVID-19 cases reached a “new peak” after the seven-day average daily cases climbed to 20,959.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that from Sept. 6 to 12, the DOH observed a new peak in cases that was higher than the one recorded from March 29 to April 4 at 10,431 cases.

“Our epidemic curve shows that the latest peak on the fourth week of August has surpassed that big scene back in April of 2021,” she noted.

Vergeire added that 61% of new cases came from the National Capital Region (NCR), Calabarzon and Central Luzon.

Nationally, the country remains at “high risk case classification” due to the 27% two-week growth rate in cases, while average daily attack rate (ADAR) was also at high risk, at 17.81 for every 100,000 population.

According to Vergeire, 12 of the 17 regions – NCR, Cordillera Administrative Region, Calabarzon, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Davao Region, Ilocos Region, Northern Minda-nao, Caraga, Western Visayas, Soccsksargen, and Zamboanga Peninsula – are still at high-risk case classification for COVID-19 cases.

Only Central Visayas posted a low level classification in terms of growth rate of cases.

Vaccination for all adults

The government is considering opening the COVID-19 vaccination program to the general adult population next month, President Duterte said, as the Philippines grapples with the rising number of infections that burdens its health care system.

At present, only health care workers, senior citizens, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women, essential sector workers, outbound overseas Filipino workers and the indigent population can avail themselves of COVID-19 jabs.

“I would like the people to know that we are studying the possibility of vaccinating the general adult population as early as October if there is a stable vaccine supply,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded public address aired on Tuesday.

“If there are additional vaccines and if the government can absorb all the people, we will start with the inoculation of the general public,” he added.

The President reminded agencies to prioritize the poor in the vaccination drive.

“You know, in far-flung areas of the country, there are a lot of Filipinos waiting to get vaccinated. I suggest that you prioritize the poor, those who cannot really afford to be traveling back and forth,” Duterte said.

“It would be nice of government to go to their places. After all, we know where the blighted areas are. Many of those who do not want (to get vaccinated) need to be convinced that vaccine is good for them,” he added.

As of Sept. 13, more than 22 million Filipinos have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccines while 17.08 million people or 22.14% of the eligible population have been fully vaccinated.

The government initially sought to inoculate 70% of the country’s population this year, but decided to raise the target to 90% because of the emergence of the more contagious Delta variant.

The Department of Finance has assured the public that the government has secured the financing for, and ordered, enough vaccine doses to inoculate 100 million Filipinos by the end of the year.

As of Sept. 12, the vaccines ordered by the national government totaled more than 121 million doses. Another 50.12 million doses will come from the donations by the Philippines’ bilateral partners and its share in the COVAX Facility. Doses purchased by local governments and the private sector have reached 24.12 million for a total of 195.37 million doses.

 10 million vaccine doses

Some 10 million vaccine doses will be shipped to the Philippines from the COVAX Facility in the coming weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.

WHO Philippines representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said they are “looking at increasing the vaccine allocation for the Philippines.”

“Actually we have some good news. COVAX has allocated additional vaccine doses for the Philippines within the next few weeks,” Abeyasinghe said.

“Larger consignments will arrive in the country during the third and fourth quarters of the year,” he added.

 The COVAX Facility had deployed some 13 million vaccine doses for the Philippines, providing full protection to some eight million people.

Abeyasinghe said the WHO is committed to helping the Philippines achieve its vaccination target.

“We will be mobilizing larger quantities of vaccines so that we achieve that 20% population protection before the end of the year,” he said.

Meanwhile, no COVID-19 vaccines were wasted when Typhoons Jolina and Kiko struck the country, according to the National Vaccine Operation Center (NVOC).

At a briefing on Monday, Sept. 13, Kezia Rosario of NVOC said no vaccines were damaged based on their monitoring of inoculation sites and storage facilities in typhoon-hit areas.

Rosario said the vaccines were properly stored so these could still be given to recipients.

Some vaccination sites in Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions stopped their operations during the inclement weather to ensure the safety of the vaccines and the health workers, Rosario said.