PH’s inoculation rate ‘not as quick as we wanted’ — Duque

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque attends the budget hearing at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on August 28, 2019. During deliberations on the 2020 Budget Appropriations for the Department of Health (DOH). Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Thursday that the pace of the Philippines’ COVID-19 inoculation program is “not as quick” as what the government had hoped, more than one week since the country began rolling out the vaccines’ first doses. 

According to Duque, some 83,000 health workers have been vaccinated so far. Meanwhile, Malacañang said that some 114,615 Filipinos have been inoculated as of Wednesday, out of the government’s 70 million target this year. 

“The first week, I will admit, the vaccination rate was not as quick as we wanted it, but for obvious reasons. Siyempre nag-uumpisa pa lang,” he explained.

“Pangalawa, mayroon pong option na makapili ang babakunahang healthcare workers. Kung ayaw sa Sinovac, binigyan po natin sila ng right of first refusal, at ‘yung AstraZeneca ibinigay para doon sa mga tumanggi,” he added.

China-donated Sinovac vaccine ended up being the first to reach the country and be used, starting March 1. It was followed by a portion of the AstraZeneca vaccine allotment from the COVAX Facility, the rollout of which also kicked off this week.

Some 797,000 doses or more than 70 percent of the 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the country were already deployed to 361 implementing sites, said Duque.

He also explained that the waiting time to observe side effects on inoculated individuals has taken much of the time during the vaccine rollout, when in fact the actual vaccination only takes less than an estimated 3 minutes. 

“Napansin natin na although madali magbakuna, less than 2-3 mins, but it is the observation, waiting time that is eating up so much of the time… Ang iba na nagpapakita ng mas pronounced na symptoms, they need more time to be observed,” he said.