(PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – The expiration of around 3.6 million doses of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines could have been affected by the “gaps” in the rollout of the jabs, a health official said Thursday.

This, after Go Negosyo founder and former Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion reported that 3.6 million doses of Moderna jabs expired on Wednesday and about 623,00 shots of AstraZeneca will expire on Sunday.

Concepcion blamed the expiration on the delayed approval of the administration of a second booster shot or fourth dose for adults 50 years old and above and 18 to 49 years old individuals with comorbidities by the Health Technology Assessment Council.

In an online media forum, Department of Health (DOH) Technical Advisory Group member and pediatric infectious disease expert Anna Ong-Lim said the gaps in the rollout of the primary series of vaccines and first booster doses caused the issue.

She noted the concerned jabs are “the same vaccines that were available for the first booster and the primary series”.

Hindi dahil sa ngayon lang in-approve ang second booster kaya nagkaroon tayo ng expired doses, kundi nagkaroon tayo ng gaps doon sa pagro-roll out or pagtanggap ng mga tao (It’s not because the second booster for the two age groups were just recently approved, rather we had gaps in the rollout or the people’s acceptance) for their first dose, their primary series, their first booster, and of course the second booster,” she said.

She added that focusing on the expired jabs is counterproductive and identification of the gaps’ causes and their resolution would help improve the situation.

Meantime, DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary for Public Health Services Team Beverly Ho said the government is already coordinating with the COVAX Facility for the possible replacement of the expiring jabs from the private sector.

“We recognize that there have been stocks that have expired, and efforts are ongoing now to work with our COVAX facility, because they will be able to exchange the expiring vaccines of the national government and so inquiries are being worked out if they could do the same with the private sector vaccines,” she said.

Ho urged other government agencies and the private sector to support the DOH’s PinasLakas vaccination drive instead of pointing blame.

Ang dami pang puwedeng bakunahan (Many are eligible for vaccination). It’s not just about this policy that recently came out, but we can actually optimize the stocks to cover initially those for first booster,” she said.

“Now, what’s important is, we all have to work together. Less sisihan (blaming), but actually working towards making sure to reach the PinasLakas targets,” she added.

The DOH, through the campaign, aims to vaccinate 90 percent of the target elderly population and to boost 50 percent of the target population during the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.

As of July 27, more than 71.6 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. More than 16 million have received their first booster dose and more than 1.2 million got their 2nd booster shot. (PNA)