MANILA — To speed up the current national COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged the use mobile vaccinations units to bring the program closer to people. 

“Explore deployment of mobile units to deliver and administer vaccines to areas close to and accessible to eligible recipients,” DILG Sec. Eduardo Año said in a memorandum circular dated May 31 while also calling for the simplification of data requirements for registrants.

Año said the initiative will help ease overcrowding at vaccination sites and ensure more people are inoculated against COVID-19, noting it will also benefit senior citizens, people with special needs and those in remote areas.

The DILG Secretary is also urging local chief executives to establish more vaccination sites in their areas by partnering with government agencies and the private sector.

Año said LGUs should also reach out to private hospitals and clinics and accept volunteer healthcare workers for the supervision and administration of vaccines.

During a pre-recorded public address last March, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed a desire to bring COVID-19 vaccination to slum areas with ‘mobile vaccination’ for easy access to poor families who do not have means to travel to hospitals or inoculation sites.  

“We’re thinking of going mobile, kayo na ang pumunta or if you are near the barangay you just wait kasi ang order ko ngayon is for the team to give you the vaccine while traveling. Marami tayong sasakyan. We will use all government assets,” Duterte said.

Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Francisco Duque III, on the other hand, said the mobile vaccination units suggestion would pose challenges, including the lack of manpower to monitor possible side effects on recipients.

“Ang problema lang na nakikita ko po ngayon, kung dadalhin yung bakuna sa kanila kakailanganin ng napaka maraming taong magmo-monitor for adverse effects following immunization,” Duque said, noting all recipients must be observed for at least 30 minutes to one hour to detect and immediately respond to any serious side effects. 

“Kaya po ang ginagawa natin sa fixed site implementing units like RHUs and hospitals at least dun po mababantayan maramihan. Kasi kung isa-isahin po natin sa mga lugar nila, kulang po tayo sa tao para magmonitor,” he said.

Duterte, however, claimed that asking low-income individuals to show up at hospitals would give them more reason not to get inoculated against COVID-19. 

 “If you use that argument na wala tayong tao, e yung nandito nga sa mga barangay na mahihirap hindi talaga mabakunahan. That’s the problem,” he said.

Duque assured that the current vaccination set-up is planned, likening the system to voters going to precincts or polling places to cast their votes.

“Naka-plano na po. May mga pangalan na po ‘yan parang mga botante. Meron na po silang mga assignment kumbaga sa voting precinct, meron na din silang assignment kung saan sila babakunahan,” he said.

Duterte, satisfied with Duque’s explanation, suggested that recipients from low-income households should be provided with transportation. 

“Who will take care of that problem? Either we provide the transportation (or not),” he said.

In a report by Rapplerlast May 7 Makati kicked off drive-through COVID-19 vaccinations in partnership with Ayala Malls Circuit in a bid to provide a more convenient inoculation option for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and bedridden residents.

“We understand the predicament of those who have no means of transportation or are physically unable to go through regular procedure,” Makati Mayor Abby Binay said in a statement.

Last April, Quezon City launched a mobile vaccine bus that visits remote areas while the cities of Manila, Marikina, San Juan and Taguig conducted home-service vaccinations for bedridden residents.