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Vaccination of ‘general populace’ might start in August

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More Filipinos will be inoculated by August as the government expects steady deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines in the coming months, National Task Force (NTF) chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said on April 29, 2021.

Galvez, also the country’s vaccine czar, said the government may start inoculating priority groups under categories A4 (other essential workers such as frontline uniformed personnel) and A5 (indigent population, overseas Filipino workers, and the other remaining workforce) by June.

“At saka iyong ating tinatawag na other targeted adult population o iyong general populace ay baka mag-start na po tayo sa August or September (And we might start vaccinating other targeted adult population or the general populace by August or September),” Galvez said a Palace press briefing.

He said at least 10 million doses of vaccine are expected to arrive in June and “all the orders” will be delivered from July to December.

“Nakikita po namin na kapag nagkaroon po tayo ng full vaccination program, iyong 5,000 po natin na mga vaccination sites with 100 each, makaka-vaccinate po tayo ng 500,000 a day (We can see that once we have already the full vaccination program, we can vaccinate 500,000 a day in our 5,000 vaccination sites with 100 each),” Galvez said.

He said the Philippines had secured about 140 million doses this year, excluding 44 million doses acquired through the COVAX facility.

Based on the latest NTF’s count, Galvez said 1,809,801 doses have been administered to priority groups under categories A1 (healthcare workers), A2 (senior citizens), and A3 (persons with comorbidities).

About 1,065,728 healthcare workers, 240,221 senior citizens, and 256,866 persons with comorbidities have been vaccinated since the government’s vaccine rollout started on March 1.

Galvez said beginning August, the country is slated to receive a stable supply of around 15 to 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from various pharmaceutical firms — Sinovac-Biotech, Gamaleya Research Institute, Moderna, Novavax, Johnson&Johnson, AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNtech and from the COVAX Facility.

He said the government will also conduct a symbolic vaccination in time of the observance of Labor Day on May 1.

Malacañang earlier said around 5,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been reserved for minimum wage earners and OFWs included in the A4 vaccination group in time for the observance of Labor Day.

3-year long-haul plan

Galvez bared the government’s three-year long-haul plan to boost the country’s healthcare system capability and resilience to respond to the public health crisis in the future.

Among the government’s long-term plan objectives include pandemic containment strategy for 2021, eliminating Covid-19 stigma in 2022, and achieve health self-sufficiency or preparation for future pandemic and disaster by 2023.

This year, the government targets to boost the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treatment-Reintegration strategy to further halt the Covid-19 transmission within communities.

More intensive care units (ICUs) and hospital beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms will be put up, Galvez said.

He called on the local government units to intensify their respective barangay Covid-19 responses as the national government will mobilize more health human resources.

“And also, we will establish an economic resilience in terms of strengthening minimum health standards and quarantine policies,” he added.

In 2022, Galvez said the government aims to entirely eliminate the Covid-19 virus for the county’s full economic recovery.

The government will also push for the active participation of the country’s private pharmaceutical companies and Vaccine Experts Panel (VEP) for vaccine security in the future.

“We will also hold a social healing program to negate the stigma of Covid-19,” Galvez said.

In 2023, the government will push for the modernization of the Philippine Health Care System, he added.

Address social stigma

Galvez cited the importance of addressing the social stigma associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said it is part of the government’s national action plan to establish an “after-care and social healing program” for Covid-19 survivors and others affected by the pandemic.

“Kasi nakita po talaga natin yung stigma sa Covid-19 napakataas, marami pong tumatawag sakin, pami-pamilya na nagbre-breakdown (We have seen the increasing cases of Covid-19 stigma, many are contacting me, even families are having breakdowns),” he said.

Galvez disclosed that there are also cases of suicide due to the pandemic.

“This is a very serious problem. After we undertake or eliminated the disease, we will elaborate the social healing and mental care program in our national action plan,” he said.

The government will further push for reconstitution of the country’s mental care system, which was greatly affected by the stigma brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, he added.

“We have talked to the experts so that we can explore the so-called further mental care and social healing after this pandemic,” Galvez said. (Lade Jean Kabagani, PNA)

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