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‘Social mobilizers’ to push vax drive

Gov’t pressed for time to use 27M expiring doses

The government will continue its targeted special vaccination days in April to ramp up inoculation against COVID-19 in areas and regions where coverage is low.

In an interview on radio dzBB, National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) chairperson Dr. Myrna Cabotaje said the special vaccination days are a variant of the national vaccination days called “Bayanihan, Bakunahan.”

“What we will do in April is to look at which areas need special assistance so that the regions or provinces near them can help them regarding their low vaccination coverage,” Cabotaje said in Filipino.

The Department of Health (DOH) had initiated special vaccination days in Cebu province, Davao region, and Cotabato City from March 29 to 31, and in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) from March 30 to April 1.

On Thursday, Cabotaje said COVID-19 vaccination in BARMM remains a challenge as it is “at the bottom of [the] list” having only about 26 percent or 940,000 out of the region’s target population of 3.5 million completing their primary vaccine series.

Based on the DOH’s national COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, at least 65.8 million Filipinos are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of March 30. Of this number, 64.3 million have received one dose, while 12 million have received booster shots.

The government aims to fully vaccinate 90 million people by the time President Rodrigo Duterte steps down from office on June 30.

The DOH on Saturday reported 373 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 3,678,968.

There were 37,115 active cases.

At least 3,582,529 individuals recovered from the disease, while the country’s death toll climbed to 59,324.

On Saturday, the DOH said it is planning to deploy “social mobilizers” to improve COVID-19 vaccination in areas with still low coverage.

Cabotaje, in a briefing, said vaccinations in houses and workplaces are still ongoing but this may not be enough to boost the COVID-19 inoculation rate.

“We see that there will be social mobilizers. This means they will do house-to-house, and inform the community. What is the side effect? In order to convince the people to have vaccination,” Cabotaje said.

This will be done next week in areas with a low vaccination rate. The DOH will do this in partnership with UNICEF, she added.

Among those still lagging in terms of COVID-19, she said, are the BARMM, Soccsksargen, Mimaropa, Bicol Region, Central and Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon expressed dismay over the 27 million unused doses of COVID-19 vaccines which may expire soon.

He assailed the DOH and the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 for what he called “a callous disregard for the taxpayers.”

He underscored that each centavo that was used for the purchase of the anti-coronavirus vaccines come from the taxpayers.

“More than two years into the pandemic, the IATF still manages to mismanage the government’s response to the pandemic. It is unconscionable that the vaccines that were purchased through loans could end up in the garbage,” Drilon said.

“It is criminal neglect if they let that happen,” he added.

He reminded the DOH and the IATF that it is the taxpayer who will pay for these vaccines.

He noted that the purchase of millions of COVID-19 vaccines raised the country’s debt stock from P9 trillion pre-pandemic to P12 trillion as of February 2022.

At P500 per dose, the government is throwing away P13.5 billion if the 27 million doses are not administered within the next three months, Drilon said.

The minority leader said that the government should not allow the doses to expire, as he pointed out that still a considerable number of Filipinos have not yet received their booster shots.

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