2 MILLION MORE. The Sinovac company delivers 2 million more doses of CoronaVac vaccines to the Philippines on Thursday (Aug. 12, 2021). The latest shipment raised the country’s total doses of the China-made jab to 22.5 million. (PNA photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – The government is on track in its commitment to provide a monthly allocation of 4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to the National Capital Region (NCR) and other high risks provinces, Secretary Carlito Galvez Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) against Covid-19, assured Thursday.

Galvez, who is also the vaccine czar, welcomed the arrival of 2 million doses of government-procured Sinovac vaccines, at 7:20 p.m. at the Bay 49 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 in Parañaque City.

Half of the newly delivered vaccines will be given to NCR, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal -- collectively known as NCR Plus 8 bubble, and the rest will go to high-risk provinces nationwide, he said.

"On target tayo kasi sa ngayon nakaka-7 million na tayo na nare-receive and then pagka once na nakuha natin yung 5 million next week, magiging 12 million na 'yon so sa kinuha natin na 4 million--nakikita natin mas malaki pa yung maibibigay natin talaga sa doon sa NCR areas (We are on target with our commitment, so far we already have 7 million doses and once we receive another 5 million doses next week, we will have a total of 12 million doses. So with that, we can see that we can deploy more than 4 million doses in NCR)," Galvez said in an interview.

As the government is expecting more deliveries within this month, Galvez assured an equitable distribution of vaccines nationwide.

But, in the meantime, the government will focus the vaccination program on the areas that are high-risks to Covid-19 infections, he said.

"We are racing against time, we need to vaccinate [more] as soon as possible, para at least talagang maprotektahan na natin yung economic interest natin, at the same time yung social risk (so at least we could really protect our economic interests and social risks at the same time)," he said.

Galvez noted the need to prioritize various highly urbanized centers such as Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao, in the vaccination program, to prevent the worst-case scenarios posed by the pandemic, particularly with the presence of coronavirus Delta variant.

"Nakita natin na ang laki ng magnitude at catastrophic ang effect niya sa ating economy at sa ating livelihood. At the same time, it will compromise yung safety yung majority ng ating population (We see that it has huge magnitude and its effect is catastrophic to our economy and livelihood. At the same time, it will compromise the safety of the majority of the people)," he said.

Updates on pediatric vaccination

Meanwhile, NTF medical adviser Dr. Tedy Herbosa cited the vulnerability of children to contract the dreaded disease amid the emergence of the coronavirus Delta variant.

"Nakita naman natin na yung sa Delta, na mas marami nang bata ang nai-infect at naa-admit sa mga ospital so ginagawa na rin yang mga pagbakuna ng bata sa ibang bansa (We have seen a lot of children are being infected by the virus and being admitted in the hospitals because of the Delta variant, so vaccinating them is now being done in other countries)," Herbosa said.

To date, the government's prioritization framework in the vaccination rollout remains with the vulnerable adult population such as healthcare workers, senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities.

Galvez and other health experts earlier said prioritizing the inoculation of senior citizens and persons with comorbidities is still crucial for the country to reduce hospitalization and fatality rates among vulnerable sectors.

The government, however, committed to further expand the vaccination program--given a sufficient vaccine supply--to youngsters, once the population protection is achieved among vulnerable sectors.

Herbosa said the country's Food and Drug Administration has already approved the use of Pfizer vaccines for 12 up to 15 years old.

"Bakunahan muna natin yung mga adults para maprotektahan yung mga bata kasi yung mga bata sa adults din na iinfect yan (We must vaccinate first those adults to protect the children because adults are the ones infecting children)," he said. "Once we are done inoculating the adult population, I think we can vaccinate the children with the Pfizer jabs that we have."

The latest shipment brought the country's total Sinovac jabs to 22.5 million doses, of which 1 million doses were donated by the Chinese government.

The Philippines has a total of 41,151,350 doses of Covid-19 vaccine in the stockpile. (PNA)