By Beatrice M. Laforga and Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporters
COUNTRIES such as the Philippines should start planning now to deliver coronavirus vaccines to ensure faster recovery from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The supply of COVID-19 vaccines — now in development in a dozen or so countries — will not be sufficient given the expected global demand, Patrick L. Osewe, chief of ADB’s Health Sector Group, said in a blog posted on the multilateral lender’s website.
But once the vaccines become available, there will be a massive global effort to get the vaccines to all countries and territories, he said.
“As scientists continue to work at great speed to develop safe and effective vaccines, countries must also strengthen their capacity to distribute and administer them as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Mr. Osewe said.
Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon told an online briefing on Tuesday the government formed a group headed by Health and Science and Technology officials who are planning the orders and distribution of the vaccines.
Part of the plan is Philippine participation in clinical trials of potential vaccines, she said.
The Philippines started joining worldwide clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines in July to make sure the country will get prioritized once the vaccines become available and speed up a drug’s registration.
Budget Assistant Secretary Rolando U. Toledo said the Budget department’s Procurement Service had also been tasked to plan for the vaccine orders.
ADB’s Mr. Osewe said countries should start planning on the vaccine’s storage, distribution, handling and stock management. It should also plan the hiring of people who will deliver and administer nationwide vaccination programs. Their vaccination infrastructure should be improved and expanded, he added.
The Philippines has allotted P2.5 million under next year’s national budget for COVID-19 vaccines that will cover 3.9 million Filipinos for its free vaccination program for the poor.
Mr. Osewe said the public should also be involved in identifying sectors that should be prioritized, but the decision must be carefully studied.
“The question of who should receive the first doses of the vaccine is complex,” he said in the blog. “Frontline workers are often at the top of proposed priority lists. Yet this category alone requires careful consideration — who is considered a frontline worker? Which frontline workers should be prioritized? Who will follow and in what order?” he said.
“These are all questions that will have to be answered and clearly communicated to the public,” he added.
Countries might need to prioritize people at higher risk or those living in areas where the disease is spreading rapidly. “They should also model different scenarios for vaccinating the general population and set expectations accordingly,” according to the blog.
A vaccine delivery or execution plan should also be in place to ensure a smooth implementation of the vaccination program, Mr. Osewe said. The public should likewise be educated about its benefits.
The vaccination program should be monitored and evaluated for accountability, Mr. Osewe said.
Meanwhile, an antigen test from South Korea that the World Health Organization (WHO) approved for emergency use has failed the government’s evaluation, according to the Department of Health.
The SD Biosensor COVID-19 antigen test had a 71% sensitivity, lower than WHO’s recommendation of 80% sensitivity and 97% specificity, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing on Wednesday.
Ms. Vergeire said they were still studying its use after WHO included the South Korean product in its emergency-use listing.
The use of rapid antigen test kits for detecting coronavirus patients will be pilot-tested in Baguio City as it partially reopens to domestic tourists on Oct. 1.
The Health department said in a statement last week antigen tests were being used to determine active infections through swab samples, similar to the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
Results from these tests come out faster at four to six hours compared with up to three days for the RT-PCR test.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DoH) reported 2,426 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 311,694.
The death toll rose by 58 to 5,504, while recoveries increased by 585 to 253,488, it said in a bulletin.
There were 52,702 active cases, 86.4% of which were mild, 9% did not show symptoms, 1.4% were severe and 3.2% were critical.
Metro Manila reported the highest number of new cases with 887, followed by Cavite with 201, Rizal with 147, Negros Occidental with 115 and Batangas with 99.
Of the new deaths, 20 came from Metro Manila, 16 from Western Visayas, eight from the Calabarzon region and five from the Davao region.
Central Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula reported three each, Soccsksargen reported two while the Bicol region had one death.
More than 3.48 million individuals have been tested for the COVID-19 virus, the agency said.