Kristine Dean of Relief International provides participants from Palawan's five municipalities an overview of the Project Orientation and Microplanning Workshop of Vaccinators. | PN photo

A group of 20 individuals from different towns attended a workshop for vaccinators organized by the Last Mile Project of the World Health Organization (WHO).

They came from Balabac, Bataraza, Quezon, Rizal, and Taytay and attended an orientation and microplanning session for vaccinators on April 27-28 at the A&A Plaza Hotel.

The Department of Health (DOH) is implementing the initiative, which is supported by the World Health Organization in collaboration with Relief International (RI).

RI recognized the five towns as having the largest number of children eligible for routine immunization and the general population for COVID-19 vaccination.

Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of Relief International Kristine Dean said they are extending support and assistance to the Last Mile Project by augmenting DOH human resource personnel to assist with COVID vaccinations and routine immunizations.

She said RI identified 10 priority areas throughout the country that included Oriental Mindoro and Palawan for MIMAROPA region.

The project, which started in October 2022, will run until August this year.

Dean further stated that Palawan was selected as one of the priority provinces after it was identified as among the top zero dose children when it comes to routine [immunization] and low vaccination rate for senior citizens for COVID-19.

“That’s where we try to focus but we still are also vaccinating other priority groups,” Dean said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Matthew Medrano, Medical Officer IV or DOH MIMAROPA, said the project was conceptualized because of the challenge in the implementation of COVID-19 program and routine immunization for children, where the number 1 problem that was identified was lack of manpower in certain areas in the Philippines.

He added that under the Last Mile Project, the aim for the next few months is to drastically improve the vaccination particularly of senior citizens against COVID-19 and the routine immunization of children that was also affected by the pandemic.

“This is where WHO and RI extended assistance,” Medrano said.

“So we identified certain municipalities to extend support and hoping that by the end of this project, the target of at least 80 percent of kids in these areas will get routine immunization and at least 70 percent of senior citizens get full doses of COVID-19,” he added.

Medrano said that as of March Palawan only has 463,000 individuals fully vaccinated out of the 657,000 target for herd immunity against COVID-19, or roughly 49.30 percent of the province’s population.

For the senior citizens, he said only 49.58 percent has been fully vaccinated.

“One thing we want to strengthen is the first booster shot for the general population. Medyo nahirapan tayo sa Palawan, nasa 10.55 percent pa lang ang may first booster and for A2, nasa 23.53 pa lang (We faced some difficulties in Palawan, as only 10.55% have received their first booster, and for A2, only 23.53% have received it),” he said.

Dean, however, explained that while they don’t expect vaccinators to reach a certain number of vaccinated individuals, they aim to at least contribute to the national target, and to lower the cases of zero doses of routine immunity among children.

“So for A2, our aim is 75 percent against COVID and then for routine child immunization is 80 percent to reduce zero dose children, especially here in Palawan where the rate is alarming,” she said.