Herd immunity by Christmas

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

It is good to dream big, but the people must be told how the government plans to make this dream happen. Right now, based on what we are seeing, it seems a dream too big, but a dream we hope we will realize as promised.

In a private sector event to support vaccination, vaccination czar Carlito Galvez promised a “better Christmas” with herd immunity within reach. He is saying they will be able to vaccinate around 70 percent of the population before the year ends.

“Vaccines will be the key to eliminate the COVID crisis,” Galvez said. And vaccines will no longer be coming in trickles, but in volume,he said.

Galvez also said “herd containment” would take place by September this year, with a targeted inoculation of 25 million to 50 million Filipinos. By November, Galvez said, the country would reach its benchmark for herd immunity, with 58 million to 70 million of the population receiving full doses.

Galvez said about 7.8 million vaccine doses have arrived, with an additional boost from the procurement of 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech. However, we need to administer 136 million doses for the second half of 2021.

We can only hope the government can procure all the vaccines we need on time and be able to carry out the complicated logistics and processes to make herd immunity happen by Christmas.

Vaccination is the key to freedom from COVID. According to an analysis by the New York Times, Los Angeles is the best in the US for low cases, notably because of its 60 percent vaccination threshold. Tel Aviv, one of the most vaccinated cities in the world, counted just two cases Wednesday last week.

New York City and London are preparing to welcome tourists this summer. All these showed, the NY Times analysis concludes, that “this year, no factor has determined a nation’s path out of the pandemic more than the vaccines it can buy.”

The NY Times in its weekend review newsletter:

“The true end of the pandemic will arrive once at least 70 percent of Americans of all ages are vaccinated, with the inoculation of children being key to ending the health crisis… As of Saturday, 36 percent of people in the US are fully vaccinated.”

How far are we from our goal?

Edson Guido of ABS-CBN News Analytics has been crunching the COVID numbers from the start and his numbers show how daunting the challenge is.

Using the current level of vaccination performance, Edson’s estimate: “We’ll reach the target of 70 million people in 5.6 years (November 2026).”

Bloomberg: “It will take another 6.4 years to cover 75 percent of the population.”

Edson explained that he and Bloomberg use the latest average of 67,780 doses per day. But Bloomberg’s reference point is 75 percent of the population.

As of May 16, the Philippines has administered 2.54 million vaccine doses, but only around 500,000 have gotten two. We have to do a whole lot better than 67,780 doses per day for a Merry Christmas.

Assuming a target of 68 million more to vaccinate, multiplied by two for two doses equals 136 million doses to administer for the second half of the year, when a lot more vaccines are expected to arrive. Divide 365 days by two equals 182 days left to get the job done. That’s 747,000 jabs a day until Dec. 31.

The reality, as Edson Guido pointed out, is that as of May 14, we have yet to fully use the vaccines that arrived from February to April, excluding those that arrived this month.

Here are the statistics: Total supply as of April 30: 4,040,600; Total doses administered as of May 11: 2,542,066; 514,655 fully vaccinated; This is 0.47 percent of the 110 million population; 67,780 are vaccinated daily. At this pace, we’ll reach the target of 70 million people in 5.6 years (Nov 2026), Guido pointed out.

We have a long way to go.

Two questions: Will we have enough vaccines to administer at 700,000 a day? Will we be able to vaccinate at that rate given current procedures, facilities and manpower?

There is no doubt, as one Twitter post puts it, “faster vaccination rate will hasten the economy reopening and bring back jobs. The VERY FIRST PRIORITY of the government is to be aggressive in vaccine procurement and streamline process. The public’s vaccine hesitancy will fade when they see our vaccination system is at its best.”

First worry is how to use some 1.5M doses of AstraZeneca that will expire this June. Galvez says that is not a problem. We hope he is right.

This is why we need to work together and help put up more vax centers. Good to learn that the Araneta Coliseum and other large venues are now being used.

Good to use the malls too, but make sure they have appropriate HEPA filters in their air conditioning system. The crowd that tried to get the Pfizer jab in a Paranaque mall last Monday looked like a super spreader event.

Too bad the mega vax center is seven weeks delayed. It should have been ready for the original delivery schedule of vaccines by around this time. Hopefully it will be ready by June 21, the new delivery schedule.

The mega vax center will have a whole integrated process, systems, procedures, etc. We might as well do this right because we will likely have to vaccinate all over again next year… an annual ritual like the flu vaccine.

UP Political Science Professor Clarita Carlos posted her suggestions to accelerate the take up of vaccines to achieve herd immunity by November.

Vaccines ON WHEELS which can go around and inoculate sidewalk vendors, delivery drivers, restaurant workers and the like; Best also if these vaccine on wheels will carry J & J, which is only ONE DOSE;

All drug stores like Mercury, Watson’s, to have vaccine corners for WALK INS; DRIVE THRUs for those who have cars.

Per DOH guidance the other night, to DISPENSE with taking vitals like BPs and oxygen levels which delay the process; Eliminate all residential and pre-registration requirements; Get rid of apps which are all BULOK! Mas madalas sira kesa nagwowork! Kunsumisyon…

Let us work together to have a Merry Christmas this year!



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twiter @boochanco

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