No surprise that 40 million Covid shots remain unused in PH

Published by rudy Date posted on November 6, 2021

By Al Vitangcol 3rd, 6 Nov 2021, Manila Times

ONE of the top stories in Bloomberg News on November 3 reported that “40 million Covid shots remain unused in the Philippines over ‘logistical bottlenecks’.”

The article stated that “[m]illions of coronavirus vaccines remain unused in the Philippines as logistical bottlenecks and hesitancy slow inoculations, health officials said, highlighting another risk to the nation’s economic recovery. More than 40 million of the 108 million vaccines the nation has received are in warehouses, in transit to the archipelago’s remote islands, or waiting to be used in local health offices, according to the health department. Inoculations are hampered by ‘logistical bottlenecks’.”

It was further stated that Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd, in a virtual briefing that same day, was the one who used the term “logistical bottlenecks.”

“Some local governments took their time with inoculations thinking it’s ‘business as usual,’ [Health] Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said at a separate briefing. “Vaccine hesitancy also continues to be a roadblock, with as many as a quarter of the population doubting Covid-19 shots.”

The short, but stinging, article went on to say: “The Philippines, which lags much of Southeast Asia in terms of vaccine coverage, stayed at the bottom of Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking last month despite decreasing infections. Even with only a quarter of the population fully vaccinated, the government has eased movement restrictions, allowing gyms and cinemas to reopen to help boost a nascent economic recovery.”

It ended with the statement, “The government will push local governments to quicken rollout and will raffle off cash prizes to encourage the public to get vaccinated, Cabotaje said.”

Where is this government’s push to hasten the rollout? I wonder what that push to the local government units (LGU) was.

This Bloomberg news story is no surprise at all considering the way some LGUs have been mishandling the vaccine rollout.

There are LGUs claiming that they were given limited vaccine doses only and this is despite the fact that there are 40 million shots that remain unused. This is a clear indication of mismanagement, which should not be tolerated.

Refused to jab minors

Why do I say that I am not surprised by this revelation? Well, take for example one LGU in the south of Metro Manila.

The LGU scheduled on November 2 the vaccination for 12- to 17-year-old minors with comorbidities at the gymnasium of a local hospital. As reported by those who went there, the gymnasium was almost empty with only a handful of minors getting their jabs.

On that same day, the LGU posted on its official Twitter account an announcement on “Pfizer 1st Dose Vaccination Schedule” for the following day, November 3. It listed two hospitals as vaccination sites for “12-17 years old with comorbidity & Rest of Pediatric Population.” Likewise listed were three local shopping malls for “12-17 years old without comorbidity.”

In its Facebook account, the LGU listed five shopping malls as vaccination facilities for “12-17 years old without comorbidity (Rest of Pediatric Population).” It likewise posted: “Narito po ang listahan ng mga vaccination sites para sa pagbabakuna ng first dose sa Pediatric A3 Population bukas November 3, 2021. Pinapakiusapan po ang lahat na huwag pong makakalimot na magsuot ng face mask, face shield, pag sanitize ng kamay at pagpapanatili ng physical distancing sa loob ng mga vaccination sites pati na rin ang pagdala ng ID at sariling panulat o ballpen. Maraming salamat.”

Nowhere in these announcements was it stated that there was a need for a “text confirmation” for the would-be vaccinees to be given jabs. All it said was to bring identification cards and writing implements.

Knowing the first day’s “almost empty gymnasium” situation, a number of parents, together with their minor children (without comorbidities), trooped to the designated vaccination centers on November 3 — just to be turned away by the health workers.

These LGU workers were looking for a “text confirmation,” which they said the vaccinee should have received so that the latter could be administered the vaccine. Their policy was “no text confirmation, no vaccine”!

Shame on these people. There were no announcements to that effect. Their announcements were misleading and deceptive at best. What does the phrase “Rest of Pediatric Population” mean?

Why not vaccinate those who were willing to be vaccinated? Why wait for those “scheduled to be vaccinated” but were late in showing up (or worse, were no-shows at all)?

They gave a dumb reason though to justify their omission — they cannot add new patient information in the computer system. They claimed that the system creates the patient record only upon sending out the text confirmation message.

Wow, what a stupid system they have. Now, do you still wonder why there are still 40 million unused Covid shots?

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