THE PHILIPPINES will start vaccinating the general population and minors against the coronavirus next month as it tries to reach herd immunity, according to the presidential palace.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte had approved the proposal by an inter-agency task force, his spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Tuesday. He did not specify the age group for children.
The country is struggling to vaccinate its entire adult population amid a spike in infections believed to be triggered by a more contagious Delta coronavirus variant.
The first priority groups covered health workers, senior citizens, seriously ill people, essential workers and the poor. The government would continue to prioritize them for vaccines, Mr. Roque said.
Vaccine chief Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. earlier said the Philippines would have enough vaccine supply to inoculate 12 million children aged 12 to 17.
Mr. Roque urged parents to have their children registered for the vaccination.
“We have enough supply,” he said in Filipino. “We are just preparing the master list. Once we have a master list, let us wait for the announcement on who will be first.”
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 13,846 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 2.52 million.
The death toll rose to 37,686 after 91 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 39,980 to 2.35 million, it said in a bulletin.
There were 132,139 active cases, 76.6% of which were mild, 16.4% did not show symptoms, 2.1% were severe, 3.99% were moderate and 0.9% were critical.
The agency said 58 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 40 of which were reclassified as recoveries and one as a death, while 37 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Seven laboratories failed to submit data on Sept. 26.
The digital platform that the Health department uses to manage COVID-19 information had reached its maximum capacity, which led to technical glitches in the past days, said Alethea de Guzman, director of the agency’s Epidemiology bureau.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology is trying to identify fixes to expand the Health department’s server capacity, she told an online news briefing.
Mr. Roque said 44.36 million coronavirus vaccines had been given out as of Sept. 27. More than 20.58 million people or 26.68% of adult Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, he added.
Mr. Duterte on Monday night said he might force Filipinos to get vaccinated to protect public health. “The police must go in and intervene in your private life so that you cannot be a danger to society,” he said in a taped Cabinet meeting.
In June, Mr. Duterte said he would order the arrest of those who refuse to get vaccinated. He also threatened to require village officials to prepare a list of vaccine decliners.
Those who don’t want to get vaccinated may leave the country, he said.
In his taped address on Monday night, Mr. Duterte asked government workers who refuse to get vaccinated to leave public service.
“I guess the President will start requiring mandatory vaccination among those working in the government,” Mr. Roque said on Tuesday. “But this is without prejudice to Congress passing a law.”
The Philippines aims to reach population protection by vaccinating 50-60% of its population by year-end.
The government expects to take delivery of about 100 million coronavirus vaccines next month, Mr. Galvez told Mr. Duterte at the Cabinet meeting on Monday.
The government is seeking to give out 55 million COVID-19 vaccine doses next month. This could still go up depending on the capacity of local governments, he said.
The state expects to raise the number of vaccines given out to 45 million by the end of the month, Mr. Galvez said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza