The National Task Force against COVID 19 has recalibrated the national vaccination program to ensure the sustainability of supply, secure access to the latest generation of vaccines, and complete the immunization of 80 to 90% of the country’s population by the first quarter of 2022.
During the President’s Talk to the People address on Monday, NTF Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. reported that the updated vaccination program reflects the lessons learned over the course of the current vaccine rollout, as well as the country’s experiences in dealing with the various COVID-19 variants.
Galvez said that the task force is studying the current global vaccine supply trend and the rollout of local government units across the country to determine their respective storage, distribution, and administration capacities.
He added that prime consideration was given to real world data on the efficacy of various vaccines, the advice of health experts in increasing the percentage of the target population to 80% up to 90%, and the upcoming 2022 national elections, which could be a potential ‘super spreader’ event.
“In order to achieve ‘yung effective population protection at saka po ‘yung herd immunity, kailangan po iangat po natin ng 80 to 90 percent kasi nakita natin ‘yung experiences ng ibang bansa gaya ng Singapore and Israel,” said Galvez.
“So, sa plano po natin, kailangan matapos na natin bakunahan ang mga tao by February, bago iyong election period natin. Para just in case magkaroon ng violations [on minimum public health standards], at least bakunado po ang mga tao,” he continued.
Galvez said that the updated vaccination plan will be presented to the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) for its approval.
Second wave of vaccine procurement
Galvez bared that the NTF has begun to assess and evaluate the safety and cost-effectiveness of various vaccines through the Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP).
This is in light, he said, of the emergence of different COVID-19 variants and the development of reformulated boosters as well as the new generations of vaccines.
He reported that the VEP will be submitting this quarter a new COVID-19 vaccine portfolio that will be the basis for procuring the country’s 2022 supply, as the panel continuously monitors and evaluates both clinical and real world performance of each vaccine brand.
The NTF has commenced its negotiations with four to five manufacturers in order to secure its initial supply allocation target of at least 90 million doses in 2022.
The task force is aiming to sign non-binding term sheets this month with various vaccine makers to lock in the supply agreements and complete the contracts by year-end.
Meanwhile, the Department of Finance has started preparing the funding arrangement for the procurement of next year’s supply requirements.
The government has earmarked Php 45 billion in funds that were sourced through multilateral loans from development partners such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Transition to 2022 vaccine rollout
The Philippines has secured a total of 187.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 2021, of which 77.4 million doses have been delivered since February.
Galvez is optimistic that the total vaccine deliveries to the country since February will reach the 100 million mark by the end of October and increase to 160 million doses by year-end.
These supplies, he said, would be sufficient in expanding the vaccine coverage to children and the general population this quarter, and achieving the full vaccination of 50 to 70 million Filipinos by the end of 2021.
The expected deliveries will ensure the country’s continued and unhampered vaccine rollout until the first quarter of 2022.
Galvez said the remaining eight million doses of Astrazeneca procured by the LGUs and private sector, as well as the government-procured six million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines that will be finalized this week, will be part of the transition supply for the first quarter of 2022.
He said that with the transition supply and the initial deliveries of the ‘second wave’ procured doses, the cumulative vaccine supply received by the country would reach 200 million by February 2022.
The vaccine czar pointed out that this projection, along with the aggressive implementation of the vaccination program this quarter, the Philippines may be able to begin the administration of a third dose of the vaccine or booster shots by the first quarter of 2022. (NTF Covid-19)