After more than two months since its vaccine rollout began, the national government has managed to fully vaccinate 1 million Filipinos from COVID-19.

An updated report released by the Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday (May 27) presented new statistical data concerning the Philippines vaccination drive. As of May 25, the country has fully inoculated 1,029,061 individuals, which accounts for one percent of the nation’s total population. 

Meanwhile, those who’ve been given a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine number 3,466,314. 

Although a significant milestone has been reached, the country is still far from achieving its target of fully vaccinating 70 million people by the end of the year – a needed measure in realizing herd immunity. 

What’s seems to be the problem?

According to health experts, this goal will be largely dependent on the availability of vaccines in the country, which hasn’t been the most consistent. 

Throughout its anti-coronavirus jab rollout, the government has been having issues with vaccine supply, delivery, and delays in shipments – problems that will play a part in attaining mass resistance against COVID-19.

After acquiring its first shipment of anti-COVID shots in February, the Philippines has amassed 8.2 million doses of the COVID-19 at present time – made up of Coronavac, Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, Pfizer. 

Besides these four, the country has also made deals with other manufacturers, specifically with Novavax, Johnson and Johnson, and Moderna. 

By the end of the year, the government expects to receive 157 million vaccines from these seven manufacturing firms – that is, of course, if supplies are delivered on time. 

Fast-tracking vaccinations

To attain herd immunity by the end of the year, the Philippines has to ramp up its vaccine rollout to 645,260 doses daily as opposed to the current 170,844 daily vaccinations.

With our current pace, the country will not be able to fulfill the 70 million inoculation quota until 2023.

A change of plans

Instead of focusing on achieving herd immunity, DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the country will be shifting to a more urgent strategy, which involves ‘mass immunizations.’

“We are shifting to the term ‘population protection’ through mass immunization kasi ‘yung herd immunity maraming mga kaakibat na criteria,” Cabotaje said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday (May 26).

Cabotaje attributes the shift to factors that would inevitably delay herd immunity including the appearance of new COVID-19 variants, inconsistent vaccine supply, and the length of immunity that vaccines provide, which remains to be seen. 

Adding to the dilemma is the rise in Filipinos not wanting to be inoculated. In the latest SWS Survey, only 3 out of 10 Filipinos are willing to be vaccinated. 

According to the health undersecretary, the goal now is to prevent hospitalizations and minimize deaths from COVID-19.

“The term now is really population protection. We prevent hospitalization, we prevent and minimize deaths by prioritizing. And the bigger the population that is vaccinated, we have population protection so less chances of infections spreading. If infections spread, this will be very mild.”

The quota of 70 million has also been decreased to 50-60 million with the health agency targeting herd immunity in areas included in the NCR Plus and eight other regions. 

Rollout progress

At present, the country’s rollout is still limited to the A1, A2, and A3 bracket, which consists of frontline health workers, senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities. The government is expected to expand its scope soon to include the A4 population – composed of essential workers. 

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Image credit: Veejay Villafranca / Bloomberg via Getty Images