OCTA to gov’t: Prioritize NCR Plus 8 in distribution of J&J COVID-19 vaccine

OCTA Research on Tuesday urged the government to keep prioritizing NCR Plus 8 in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines amid limited supply.

The independent group made the suggestion in light of the government’s plan to deploy the 3,239,400 doses of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine to island provinces, including those in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“The key to short or medium term success is to stick with the plan. We already have a blueprint, iyong [prioritization of] NCR Plus 8. We hope that this will not be subject to political influences,” said Prof. Ranjit Rye, an OCTA fellow, during the day’s Laging Handa briefing.

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“If we stick with that plan, the country will move forward,” he added.

Unlike other COVID-19 vaccine brands, J&J’s vaccine is administered in single dose.

“That will be a great additional to our vaccine portfolio,” Rye said of J&J’s vaccine.

“Any additional vaccine will always be good, pero ang problema natin ay supply. Iyon ang key problem. So [dahil] kakaunti ang supply mo, we have to make [the way we administer] the jab very efficient. Ang fear namin, nawawala ang focus sa NCR Plus 8,” he added.

(We have to be very efficient in giving jabs. We fear that we are losing focus on NCR Plus 8.)

NCR Plus 8 is composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

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Focusing on NCR Plus 8, Rye said, will reduce number of COVID-19 cases where it is most prevalent.

“When we focus on NCR Plus 8, babagsak ang numero ng COVID-19 cases, magbubukas ang ekonomiya, and these developments will impact the whole country kasi iyong pagkalat ng COVID-19 cases ay nanggagaling sa NCR Plus 8. Dito ang majority ng COVID-19 cases,” he pointed out.

(If we focus the vaccination on NCR Plus 8, we will reduce number of COVID-19 cases, the economy will open up, and this will impact the entire country since COVID-19 cases are mostly coming from NCR Plus 8.)

Rye said as it is, only 10% of Metro Manila residents are fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

“If we can even vaccinate 20% of NCR alone, maybe we can imagine an MGCQ,” Rye said.

MGCQ, or modified general community quarantine, is the most lenient in all of quarantine protocols since it allows both essential and non-essential trips and partially allows non-essential business and services to operate.

“The faster we can vaccinate people in NCR alone, it will have a huge impact on the country. That is why OCTA has been fighting for this since January this year,” Rye said.

“Stick with the plan, eyes  on the ball, and you will see, in a few months, we will see the impact. And this is urgent because of the more transmissible Delta variant. We have to be prepared by observing public health standards and vaccinating as many people in our communities where COVID-19 is most prevalent,” he added.

The Philippines’ vaccine supply is around 17 million doses, but it has only vaccinated 13 million individuals so far. Of this number, 3.52 million are fully vaccinated.

The Philippines is eyeing to vaccinate 58 million people in highly urbanized areas by the end of the year for population protection. The 58 million figure is 70% of the population in highly urbanized areas.

Reporting by Albert Rovic Tan

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