THE GOVERNMENT will soon start vaccinating poor Filipinos against the coronavirus depending on available supplies, health authorities said on Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said the World Health Organization had also allowed the use of vaccines obtained under a global initiative for equal access for the country’s poor population.

“This will be allowed depending on the supply,” she told an online news briefing in mixed English and Filipino.

Local governments with excess vaccine supply may vaccinate this group as early as now, Ms. Vergeire said.

Vaccines under the global initiative were originally allotted for health workers, senior citizens and seriously ill people.

Under the guidelines, local government units will coordinate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the list of poor Filipinos.

Additional poor populations identified and validated by local governments will be eligible for vaccination.

The government is vaccinating health frontliners, senior citizens, seriously ill people and economic frontliners.

About 6.8 million coronavirus vaccines had been given out as of June 13, according to the presidential palace.

Of the total, more than five million were first doses, while the rest were second doses, presidential spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Monday.

Mr. Roque said about 964,781 health workers and 471,425 senior citizens had been fully vaccinated.

About 412,246 seriously ill people and 7,020 essential workers had also completed their coronavirus shots.

Mr. Roque said the country has received about 12.7 million coronavirus vaccines.

The government last week took delivery of about 100,000 doses of Sputnik V shots from Russia and about 2.2 million doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer, Inc.

The country seeks to inoculate as many as 70 million Filipinos before the end of the year to attain herd immunity. It seeks to inoculate nine million people in the National Capital Region by late November. 

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson pushed for a vaccine passport system that would allow easier entry of vaccinated people, especially returning migrant Filipino workers and foreign investors.

The senator said many returning migrants and foreign investors were reluctant to come here because of tight protocols. Returning overseas Filipino workers (OFW) might be required to be tested and then stay at home for 10 days, he said.

“Most of the time, OFWs return to the country because of an emergency. But if you are an OFW and you are required to be quarantined for 10 days, how many days of your leave will go to waste? I don’t think that makes sense,” he told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

“Our tourism sector and investment will suffer,” Mr. Lacson said. “If a potential investor who would like to come here learns of the requirements that include a swab test and staying at a quarantine facility not of his or her choice, would he or she still come?”

He asked an inter-agency task force to fine-tune protocols and ensure that these are in sync with other countries.

The government earlier cut the quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated foreign travelers to seven days.

This applies to foreigners who got vaccinated in the Philippines. Returning Filipinos who got vaccinated overseas must still undergo a 10-day quarantine at a facility and four days at home, Mr. Roque said earlier.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two or more weeks after completing his dose. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza