WHO: PH health care workers not yet fully protected vs COVID-19

A health care worker prepares to administer the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine during the third round of San Juan City vaccination rollout for medical workers in public hospitals and private clinics at the Filoil Flying V Centre (San Juan Arena) on Tuesday, March 23. | PNA photo by Joey Razon

THE Philippines is “falling short” of protecting its frontline healthcare workers against COVID-19, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said Monday, April 19.

In a Laging Handa public briefing, WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe noted that only 63% of the country’s health care workers have been immunized under the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

“At least 1.125 million doses have been administered and 63% of them are health workers. We need to still prioritize and ensure full coverage of medical frontliners,” he said.

“We are still short of protecting all the front-line health care workers, and the current surge demonstrates that we need to have health care workers fully protected so that they can work to care for the sick and help them heal,” he added.

In a separate press briefing, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said a total of 1,264,811 people on the vaccination priority list had received their first dose.

Based on the figures, 960,191 are health care workers, 128,018 are 60 years old and above, and 176,305 have medical conditions.

“We continue to emphasize — let’s work on a priority basis to protect the front-line health-care workers and then move gradually to other groups that have been identified,” Abeyasinghe said during the briefing.

However, Cabotaje pointed out many health workers are still hesitant about getting vaccinated.

“Marami pa po sa atin ang may vaccine hesitancy, including sa ating healthcare workers (Many of us still have vaccine hesitancy, including our health care workers),” she said Monday.

According to her, 54,000 health care workers who are also senior citizens with health risks had deferred vaccination due to several reasons, including high blood pressure, recent COVID-19 infection, and simply not being ready for inoculation.

For its part, Malacañang urged frontline health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I think as a general conclusion, lahat po ng medical frontliners na gustong magpabakuna, mabibigyan po ng bakuna. Pero marami talaga sa kanila ang nag-aantay ng kanilang favored brand at hindi naman natin po sila mapipilit (all medical front-liners who want to get vaccinated, will be vaccinated. But there are many of them who are still waiting for their favored brand so we can’t force them),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Tuesday, April 20.

“Sa amin po, walang tigil ang aming pagmumungkahi sa mga (For us, we will not stop suggesting) health professionals that the best vaccine is the vaccine that is available,” he added.

The Philippines has received a total of 3,025,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through donations and procurement.
Of the number, 2.5 million doses are Sinovac’s CoronaVac from China, while the rest are from British-Swedish company AstraZeneca.

The country is aiming to vaccinate 50 to 70 million Filipinos by the end of the year.

To date, there are a total of 953,106 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, with 16,141 fatalities and 809,959 recoveries.

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