To sustain the momentum of COVID-19 vaccination, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Monday urged the government to consider giving the private sector a much wider role in the inoculation drive against the deadly coronavirus.
“Since there is now ample supply of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines globally, it is time that the national government consider allowing the private sector to deal directly with manufacturers to ensure a more sustainable and dependable supply of life-saving vaccines for Filipinos,” Velasco said.
Under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, private companies and local government units (LGUs) are authorized to procure vaccines which have been given emergency use authorization through a tripartite agreement with manufacturers and the national government, represented by the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF).
Velasco, the principal author of the law in the House of Representatives, said he was open to amending it to allow private companies to directly purchase vaccines for their workers and their dependents.
The House leader said he was also amenable to devolving some responsibilities and functions in the COVID-19 vaccination program from the national government to LGUs.
Velasco said that granting the private sector the authority to directly purchase COVID-19 shots will “relieve pressure on government resources considering that vaccine procurement and administration entails a lot of logistical challenges.”
“By granting the private sector greater participation in the vaccination campaign, the government can focus its resources on the inoculation of frontliners, uniformed personnel and vulnerable sectors,” the Speaker said.
“The amount the government will save can be channeled to efforts to help economic recovery post-pandemic,” he added.
Given the high level of efficiency associated with the private sector, Velasco said its greater involvement in COVID-19 vaccination would enhance government efforts to ensure rapid and efficient rollout of available vaccines.
At the same time, the Speaker urged the DOH and NTF to make public any findings as to how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts.
“They should inform the public how long a certain vaccine brand lasts so that people would know when they should get a booster or get inoculated again,” Velasco said.
Meanwhile, new COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) averaged at 91 cases per day from December 6 to December 12, lower than the 105 daily infections reported last week, the OCTA Research Group announced on Monday.
“The 7-day average in the NCR decreased to less than 100 for the first time since March 22 to 28, 2020,” OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David said in a tweet.
In its latest report, OCTA said the NCR also recorded a reproduction number at 0.39, higher than the previously reported 0.34.
Reproduction rate refers to the number of people infected by one case.
A reproduction number that is below 1 indicates that the transmission of the virus is slowing down.
Also, the independent monitoring group said NCR has an average daily attack rate of 0.64 per 100,000 individuals and a positivity rate of 0.9 percent, meeting the benchmark of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Based on its metrics, OCTA said NCR is at very low risk while the Department of Health (DOH) previously classified NCR at minimal risk for COVID-19.
OCTA said Pateros, Caloocan, Las Piñas, Mandaluyong, Parañaque, Marikina, Pasig, Navotas, Valenzuela, San Juan, Manila, Pasay, and Taguig are also classified as very low risk.
In a related development, the National Vaccination Operations Center said the three-day drive will be canceled in areas that will be directly hit by Typhoon “Odette” that is forecast to enter the Philippine area of responsibility on Tuesday and make landfall over Eastern Visayas or in the Caraga Region by Wednesday night.
The National Task Force on COVID-19 will issue a memorandum in case of cancellation in affected areas.
Dizon also announced that the bulk of the single-dose Janssen vaccines, donated by the Dutch government, will start pouring in on Monday night, starting with 1,526,400 doses.
On Tuesday, 945,600 doses will arrive, followed by 2,011,200 and 2,011,200 doses on Tuesday, and 3,055,200 on Wednesday.
The vaccines manufactured by Johnson & Johnson will also be deployed in regions to ramp up the goal at vaccinating at least 54 million Filipinos by the end of the year.
As of Dec. 10, a total of 40,693,310 Filipinos are already fully vaccinated. NTF chief implementer and vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said more than 62 million doses are in the stockpile, aside from those arriving within the week.
The 52 million doses arriving this month include 18 million Pfizer and 6 million Moderna doses procured by the government and 7 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines procured by the private sector and LGUs.
Also on Monday, an infectious disease expert, Dr. Rontgene Solante, said booster shots after getting fully vaccinated can triple the body’s protection against COVID-19.
Solante said studies have shown that the protective efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines starts to go down at the fifth to sixth month, and that giving a third or booster shot not just doubles but triples the protection.
Solante said there is still no data on whether people need another booster six to eight months after the first one.