by Christian Deiparine – Philstar.com, 14 Sep 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization on Tuesday urged the Philippines to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations on vulnerable groups, as its representative said the rollout for the elderly is “unfortunate and unsatisfactory.”
Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe gave the blunt assessment at a government briefing as he announced the COVAX Facility, co-led by the WHO, would send some 10 million more doses to the country.
“We have made progress but unfortunately, the progress in the Philippines has been painfully slow,” he said. “This is unfortunate, unsatisfactory.”
Half a year since inoculation efforts began, Abeyasinghe said 3.6 million senior citizens have yet to receive even a single shot.
The government has put the elderly second in its priority list. Data on September 13 showed there are now 4.17 million of that age group complete with their COVID-19 shots, while 3.47 million have received an initial dose.
Abeyasinghe said protecting the most vulnerable has become more urgent as the country faces a new uptick in infections.
On coronavirus-related deaths, he said seven out of 10 also come from those about 60 years of age.
“We need to correct this as quickly as possible,” he added, “because we’re seeing a surge affecting many other regions in the Philippines [where] the elderly coverage is still below 40%.”
Experts have said the fresh surge in coronavirus cases may be driven by the highly infectious Delta, which the WHO has said is now the dominant variant in the country.
The highest tally in the string of record-high infections was seen on September 11 with 26,303 more infections. That count is also the most number of cases reported in a day since the pandemic hit in 2020.
“We need to do better and we urge local chief executives and health authorities to prioritize and create avenues so most elderly people can be vaccinated and their lives protected,” Abeyasinghe said.
Per latest government data, the number of Filipinos fully vaccinated for COVID-19 has stood at 17.07 million.
That makes up 22.14% of the government’s target of up to 70 million this year. Some 22.06 million have received a first dose.