The Department of Health (DOH) said it is trying to gather more reports on possible COVID-19 vaccine wastage in areas hit by typhoon Odette as a former adviser to the government’s pandemic response warned of a possible surge in infections in the Visayas and Mindanao as hundreds of thousands of people were forced to stay in evacuation centers, exposing them to the risk of getting the virus.
“We are coordinating with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), even our military so that we can check the condition of our vaccines,” said Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, who said some coronavirus shots may have been affected by the power outages.
“We may have some vaccines that have been compromised because of power outages,” she said.
She added that while they were prepared for this eventuality, the outages might last longer than expected, and the generators may run out of fuel.
Cabotaje said vaccine deliveries were hampered by the typhoon due to flight cancellations.
Dr. Tony Leachon said it is important to monitor the COVID-19 situation in the country’s two major island groups in the coming weeks, noting as well the low vaccination rates there.
Leachon said to avoid a rise in cases, local officials should put up separate tents for evacuees, provide more face masks and alcohol, and conduct rapid antigen testing.
He added that people could be vaccinated at the evacuation centers.
The country confirmed its first two cases of the highly infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19 on Wednesday in a Filipino man who arrived from Japan, and a Nigerian man who came from his home country.
All eight close contacts of the two tested negative for COVID-19, the Department of Health said.
The World Health Organization classified Omicron as a variant of concern late November. It has so far reached 78 countries, including the Philippines.
The WHO said last Friday that the omicron variant is “very likely” to replace the delta variant as the dominant COVID-19 lineage in the Philippines.
According to the government’s latest vaccination report, some 43.35 million people have already been fully inoculated against COVID-19, while more than 56.1 million others have received their first dose, as of Dec. 17.
More than 1 million booster doses have also been administered.
The government aims to fully vaccinate at least 54 million people this year as the country hopes to achieve herd immunity against the respiratory disease.
Cabotaje said LGUs may decide to vaccinate people in evacuation centers, but said they must focus first on providing aid to their constituents.
During the second round of the three-day vaccination drive, Cabotaje said the government administered 2.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Dec. 15 to Dec. 17.
These administered doses include boosters, first dose and second dose as well as vaccination of the pediatric population or those aged 12 to 17 years old.
The government has suspended the second leg of vaccination in calamity-hit areas and moved it to Dec. 20 to 22.