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WHO: 3 million elderly Filipinos still unvaccinated vs COVID-19

WHO: 3 million elderly Filipinos still unvaccinated vs COVID-19

WHO: 3 million elderly Filipinos still unvaccinated vs COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines — Around three million elderly Filipinos, among those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, have yet to be vaccinated, the World Health Organization said Monday.

In Monday’s Laging Handa briefing, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe — WHO representative to the Philippines — urged local government units to prioritize those among the priority groups who have yet to receive a single dose against COVID-19 along with the simultaneous vaccination of the general adult population.

"This is what [the] position is now, to maximize the benefit of third dose in those groups who will be receiving third dose — but, again, the priority is to give first second doses to those who have not been able to get a single shot, which is about three million — unfortunately — still in the Philippines, among the elderly,” he said.

On the same day the DOH approved the Health Technology Assessment Council’s proposal for COVID-19 booster shots for health workers and elderly, while immunocompromised patients are recommended to get an additional or third jab.

Abeyasinghe said that the WHO recommended an additional dose to immunocompromised people as they are not capable of sustaining the level of immunity to protect themselves against severe COVID-19 cases.

Elderly Filipinos who received Sinovac or Sinopharm doses are also recommended to receive an additional jab.

For inoculation of the elderly, he said, the government should start giving the third dose to the most severely immunocompromised who are those aged over 80, then over 70, then over 60.

READ: WHO: Philippines' COVID vaccine rollout for elderly 'unfortunate, unsatisfactory'

Vaccine equity

The Philippines’ vaccination program, which started in March, has now moved to cover the general adult population. Inoculation of adolescents also started this month.

While Abeyasinghe said WHO believes that inoculation of minors outside Metro Manila may proceed, he also urged the Philippine government to be mindful in vaccine equity, especially areas outside Metro Manila and other major cities.

“WHO has raised previously several times its concerns that we do not see equity; we see an inequitable situation with regards to access to vaccines in provinces and regions outside NCR and major cities, especially to most vulnerable,” he said, adding that the elderly and those with comorbidity comprise 30-40% of the population in many of the regions.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government last week said around 7.9 million or 81.4% of the eligible population in the NCR are now fully vaccinated.

“With the increase in [the] availability of vaccines, we continue to urge the local government units in those regions to make sure that as they rollout vaccine, they ensure prioritization is also followed,” he added.

“This is critically important because we still believe we need to be very careful with dealing with the ongoing Delta experience in the regions,” Abeyasinghe continued.

The latest data from the DOH showed that as of October 24, 55,715,693 doses against COVID-19 have so far been administered to Filipinos. Some 25.711 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 30 million are waiting for their second jabs.

National caseload hit 2,756,923 on Sunday, with 5,279 additions logged on that day. Of these, 60,957 are tagged as active cases.

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