The US is another step closer to returning to a life of normalcy after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further eased restrictions on mask-wearing throughout the country, specifically for people who’ve been vaccinated. 

On Thursday, the US health agency announced that Americans who’ve been inoculated from the coronavirus will not be required to wear masks outdoors and in most indoor settings. 

“If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask,” President Joe Biden shared in his recent speech, outlining the new guidelines released by the CDC.

Biden also asked those who’ve not received anti-coronavirus shots to get vaccinated – or continue wearing masks until they’ve received the jab.

“Get vaccinated — or wear a mask until you do,” he stressed.

In comparison, the Philippines is still a long way to getting back to pre-pandemic life. 

Low daily COVID-19 vaccinations 

Although progress is being made in inoculation, the national government is still far from its goal of vaccinating 70 million Filipinos to achieve herd immunity. 

In the Department of Health’s latest report, the country has vaccinated 2,539,693 Filipinos – 514,65 of which have received the second dose. This means that only 0.5 percent of the Philippines’ total population has been fully vaccinated from COVID-19 since the government started its inoculation drive in March.

The rate of daily vaccination in the country is estimated to be just above 60,000, which is not enough to achieve herd immunity by the end of the year. 

The government will have to boost inoculation numbers to 613,651 daily to reach the intended goal of vaccinating 70% of the country’s population, herdimmunity.ph says.

In April, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted that herd immunity might not be achieved this 2021. Duque said the timeline could be extended to the first quarter of 2022 – in the worst-case scenario. Though doable, New York-based think tank Global Source says this 2022 timeline could only be possible with the help of the private sector and if vaccine orders are delivered on time. 

The country has experienced multiple delays in vaccine deliveries this year. If it continues, achieving herd immunity could be moved even further.

Slow vaccine deployment

Apart from issues on daily vaccinations and vaccine deliveries, many have also found fault in the government’s distribution of COVID-19 doses. 

In a recent press briefing (May 11), Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso described the administration’s distribution of vaccines as ‘super bagal.’ Domagoso said vaccines are being kept in storage facilities for extended periods instead of being delivered to vaccination sites, which should not be the case.

“If you believe that vaccination is the solution to restart the economy, bumalik sa normal ang buhay ng tao – ang bakuna ‘di dapat pinatatagal sa kung saan-saang bodega,” he said. 

Party-list group Bayan Muna expressed the same concern. The party warned that with the current pace of vaccinations, herd immunity could be stunted by six years. 

“The current pace of about 62,654 daily vaccination will certainly not make the Philippines attain the desired herd immunity at the end of the year; at this rate, it may be attained probably after six years or in May 2027,” Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate explained.

At the moment, the country’s supply of vaccines is at 7,764,050 doses – enough to vaccinate 3.57 percent of the Philippine population.

Zarate noted that these vaccines may end up being wasted with daily vaccinations not improving. 

“Based on available data, the vaccine supply now is at 7,764,050 doses, which is enough to fully inoculate about 3.57 percent of our population but at the rate, we are going now a bulk of the vaccines may reach its expiration date in June and would just be wasted,” he said.

According to Zarate, vaccination should focus on areas that have high infection rates such as Davao, NCR Plus, Cebu, and Isabela. 

“It would also be best to concentrate first in the areas where there are concentrations of infections like the NCR Plus bubble, Cebu, Davao and Isabela so as to prevent the Covid virus from further spreading,” he suggested.

“Itigil na dapat ang style na patulog-tulog sa pansitan at pabilisin at pahusayin na ang roll out dahil buhay at kabuhayan ng mga Filipino ang nakasalalay dito,” Zarate stressed.

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