INDIVIDUALS with any of seven illnesses or comorbidities identified by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will be considered as priority in government’s national vaccination program for COVID-19.
The seven are chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, chronic kidney disease, malignancy, diabetes mellitus, and obesity.
Over the weekend, the IATF-EID decided to start conducting simultaneous immunization of priority groups A1 (healthcare workers), A2 (senior citizens), and A3 (persons with comorbidities).
“We have these seven pre-existing illnesses or comorbidities that increase a person’s risk for hospitalization or death if they’re infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. John Wong, a member of the IATF Data Analytics Expert Group.
He said not all illnesses are considered as comorbidities.
“Chronic liver disease was studied but there weren’t enough patients in the sample size, the results were not significant,” he said.
He said his group had to limit the types of illnesses considered as comorbidities under the A3 priority group because of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply.
“Because of the current scarcity of vaccines, we have to prioritize those at highest risk for hospitalizations and deaths. All of this is based on scientific studies,” Wong said.
Previously, healthcare workers are the only ones targeted for inoculation as they comprise the A1 sector.
As of March 27, according to the DOH, 656,331 individuals have been given COVID-19 vaccines out of the 1,525,600 doses originally available in the country.
Yesterday, 1 million doses of vaccines made by Sinovac Biotech arrived in the country. The shipment was welcomed by President Duterte, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., and and a few government officials at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.
Galvez said the shipment is part of the 25 million doses procured by the government from China.
He also said the government will start the vaccination of the A2 and A3 groups by April 1, and A4 (frontline personnel in the essential sector) and A5 (indigent) groups by May.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said those with comorbidities will be required to present proof of their medical condition.
“When you go to the vaccination sites, you can either present a medical certificate or a diagnosis like medical abstract from the hospital or doctor’s prescription within the last six months,” said Vergeire.
Wong said it is necessary to include the elderly in the priority list because they are more seriously affected if hit by COVID-19.
He said data shows the elderly are 50 percent less likely to be infected “probably because they’re being asked to quarantine or to shelter in place during our lockdown since last year.” However, senior citizens, if infected, are five times more likely to get severe disease and 10 times more likely to die, he said.
“This is why it’s very important to vaccinate them as soon as possible to prevent hospitalization and deaths,” said Wong.
There are about 9 million senior citizens targeted for inoculation against COVID-19.
Metro Manila residents who are 60 years and older have until March 31 to register with their respective local government units, while those in the other regions can sign up until April 5.
Vergeire, asked for the rationale behind the simultaneous inoculation, said the government wants to cover more people as soon as possible, amid the rising COVOD-19 cases and as is done in other countries.
“We want to cover the most vulnerable individuals to prevent hospitalization and deaths,” she said. “It was therefore resolved in the IATF-EID that we will have simultaneous vaccination from our sectors A1, A2, and A3.”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Sinovac doses that arrives yesterday are being eyed for use on people with comorbidities.
“As we finish vaccinating healthcare frontliners, we will be able to use this new batch of purchased CoronaVac vaccines to extend vaccination to vulnerable Filipinos — or those with pre-existing conditions and comorbidities — who are at most risk of severe COVID-19 and highest chances of dying,” said Duque.
Yesterday’s shipment was the third from Sinovac, a private Chinese firm. The first two CoronaVac shipments totaling 1 million doses were donated by China.
The country also received almost 500,000 doses of vaccines made by the British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, through the global sharing initiative COVAX Facility.
The latest shipment arrived via a Philippine Airlines chartered flight from Beijing at around 4 p.m.
President Duterte, accompanied by Galvez and Sen. Christopher Go, went to the tarmac where a sample crate of the Sinovac vaccines labeled “Resbakuna, kasangga ng bida,” was inspected by the chief executive.
Also present was Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the 1 million vaccines cost P700 million.
Galvez said the arrival of the vaccines will boost the people’s confidence in getting the jabs since reports from other countries showed that COVID incidents and deaths went down by as much as 82 to 95 percent.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said the city government has vaccinated 3,626 senior citizens and dialysis patients with AstraZeneca vaccines as of Monday afternoon.
The city’s vaccination program for senior citizens started Sunday.
As of March 29, Manila registered 703 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total active cases in the city to 3, 812.
There are also four new deaths for a total death toll of 891.
But the number of survivors also rose to 34, 700 after 703 new recoveries. — With Raymond Africa and Ashzel Hachero