Marcos wants to incentivize LGUs to ramp up booster coverage

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. wants to provide incentives to local governments which can increase vaccine coverage, Department of Health (DOH) Officer-In-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire told lawmakers on Wednesday.

She said this was Marcos' mandate when the DOH reported the still low vaccine booster uptake despite the government's vaccination efforts.

“We have allotted and identified funds for us to help our local governments and therefore incentivize them as well. And we have submitted already to the Department of Budget and Management for them to approve this realignment of funds so that we can provide incentives and this might be able to help us push our local governments to further encourage their citizens to get vaccinated,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire did not mention the specifics of the incentives.

Low vaccine uptake

There is currently less interest from the public in getting a booster vaccine, the DOH official admitted to the lawmakers.

The Marcos administration hopes 50% of eligible fully-vaccinated individuals and 90% of eligible target elderlies will be fully vaccinated by October 8.

This means at least 23 million people have to be covered by the first booster shot from July 26 to October 8.

However, only 16,997,139 or 21.76% of the target population got boosted as of posting.

“For these first two months already… we just have around 35 days to this 100 days that we have targeted. We only have around 26,590 or 2.48% accomplishment for our senior citizens, and only 9.8% out of the 23 million, which is around 2.2 million, which is our accomplishment for the first booster shots,” Vergeire said.

DOH officials cited reasons for low booster uptake, including overconfidence in the protection from the first two COVID-19 vaccine doses, side effects from vaccination, and its perceived cost, while others felt it unnecessary since it’s not a prerequisite for work or school.

The DOH will hold a special vaccination week from Sept. 26 to 30, which Vergeire hopes will help push up the vaccine coverage.

She reiterated the importance of building the wall of immunity for the vulnerable sector such as senior citizens and the immunocompromised population, especially once the nationwide face mask mandate is lifted.