Alleged priority list system glitch bars ex-DOH chief in charge of SARS from receiving COVID-19 jab

March 30, 2021 - 3:03 PM
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This composite photo shows former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit and the vaccination rollout in San Juan City (Ateneo de Manila University website; Francis Zamora/Facebook)

The former health secretary who led the country’s health response during the previous coronavirus outbreak failed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine due to alleged irregularities in a local government’s priority list.

Manuel Dayrit, former health secretary during the SARS outbreak in 2003, lined up for the vaccination in San Juan City on March 26.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Dayrit was supposed to receive the AstraZeneca jab after registering online.

However, when he arrived on the vaccination site, his name did not appear on the vaccine master list. He later registered again and was told to wait for the next inoculation schedule.

Dayrit reportedly left the site without receiving the COVID-19 jab.

San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora later told Inquirer that the former official got in the registration. However, a system glitch prevented the latter from receiving the text message that confirmed his registration.

When this report circulated on Twitter, some users were disappointed that Dayrit was not prioritized and failed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine despite being in the priority list.

“He’s a doctor. He’s a senior citizen. He protected us from SARS before. Papaano na ang pangkaraniwang Pilipino kung siya mismong dapat nasa priority list, hindi nabigyan ng bakuna?” one user said.

“This is very embarrassing. Grabe. Due to a glitch?” another user said.

Some Filipinos lamented that the current administration could not provide protection to health workers such as Dayrit, citing politicians and other personalities who cut in the priority queue.

“This is a respected physician, former secretary of health, former dean of a medical school, and current APMC president. This man deserves to be vaccinated. But only in the Philippines do we prioritize celebrities and government officials who don’t even do their jobs,” one user said.

“Dean Dayrit, the man who stopped the SARS-CoV-1 outbreak in 2003 chose to register for his vaccine fairly yet still wasn’t able to get one,” another user wrote.

Several provincial mayors, police officers and members of the Presidential Security Group became the subject of heavy criticisms after they received COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the government’s priority list where health workers and senior citizens are among the first in line.

READ: Provincial execs cutting in vaccination line brings back VIP testing controversy online

Dayrit’s 2020 COVID-19 warning

In an interview with ANC’s Headstart back in February 2020, Dayrit warned that the SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 is far deadlier and more contagious than the previous SARS.

He noted that back then the ratio was in every 10 infected people, one died. This time, he cited two deaths per 100 infected people.

“Many people get infected but not everybody dies. The case fatality, as they say– which is the fraction of those who died over those who are infected–may be smaller. But actually, you have a large number of cases. In the end, you’d still have a significant number of deaths,” Dayrit said.

Preventing the entry of infected patients is the first step to contain viral transmissions, he pointed out.

“Don’t load the country with a lot of tourists particularly from Wuhan which is the epicenter,” he said.

In a previous study about the SARS epidemic, the World Health Organization cited the Philippines’ contact tracing efforts helped stop SARS transmissions in the country.

“WHO removes the Philippines from its list of areas with recent local transmission of SARS. The Health Department’s efficient surveillance and reporting system has helped prevent further transmission,” part of the study read.