Although it is acknowledged all around that senior citizens are the most susceptible to Covid-19 infection, the World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines and the National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) deplored that as of now only 28 percent of the 8.2 million seniors in the country have been vaccinated.

In light of emerging variants of coronavirus disease, WHO Philippines and NCSC called on local government units (LGUs) to increase the rate of vaccination of senior citizens due to their high risk of getting infected.

“Vaccines are an essential addition to our protective measures against Covid-19, especially with the risk of fast-spreading variants,” said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, in a media briefing. “We need to protect our senior citizens the soonest and with the highest coverage.”

Only 28.3 percent of the country’s recorded 8.2 million seniors have received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while only 8.5 percent have received their second dose as of June 28, according to Dr. Abeyasinghe. Seven out of 10 Covid-related deaths in the country are of patients who are 60 years old and above, illustrating their vulnerability.

“We strongly urge our LGUs to ramp up efforts to improve access of the elderly to vaccines, along with improving convenience at vaccination sites,” the WHO official added, stressing that a fast vaccination roll-out should work hand-in-hand with public health protocols to protect against fast-spreading variants.

Aside from mobility, another issue that the elderly A2 priority group faces is the inability to get information about vaccination. “There are senior citizens who would like to have themselves vaccinated but they don’t know where to go, how, and when,” said NCSC Chairman and CEO Franklin Quijano.

Dr. Abeyasinghe and Quijano commended efforts that aimed to reach the elderly wherever they may be, including Puerto Princesa’s mall vaccination sites, Marikina’s mobile clinics, Taguig’s vaccination buses, and Manila’s house-to-house visits.

Speaking on the limited supply of vaccines, Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho, director of the Health Promotion Bureau and the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau of the Department of Health encouraged LGUs to keep improving their efforts.

“There are local demand generational activities that will need to be customized specifically for the local community and it might be different for one city versus another municipality, or one urban area versus another rural area, so we do recognize everyone needs to help each other out on data,” Ho said, referring to the official surveys which have been used as tools to gauge the progress of the vaccine roll-out.

“We likewise encourage senior citizens or family members of senior citizens who have gotten their jabs to become influencers in their own communities since they are the most credible endorsers that can attest to the safety of the vaccines,” she added.

The Philippines has borrowed $800 million from multilateral lenders to fund the roll-out of booster shots of the coronavirus disease vaccine, as the country battles a fresh surge in infections.

Finance Undersec. Bayani Agabin said the government borrowed $250 million each from the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in December.
Another $300-million loan agreement with the World Bank was also signed last month, the Department of Finance said in a press release.

“We expect everything, we expect (these loans) to be effective around, towards the latter part of January. So that will give us funds to purchase our COVID-19 booster shots,” Agabin was quoted as saying in the statement.