Government to inoculate 25 million people by Christmas

Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado - The Philippine Star
Government to inoculate 25 million people by Christmas
File photo of a man arranging Christmas lanterns for sale in Manila.
Interaksyon / Bernard Testa

MANILA, Philippines — The government aims to inoculate at least 25 million people within the third quarter as part of its goal to achieve a “better Christmas” this year.

National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the 25 million would come from the most vulnerable sectors – health care workers, senior citizens and people with comorbidities.

“Our target is we should have a better Christmas this year. So our strategy is to achieve the 25 million, the most vulnerable. According to WHO (World Health Organization), this is what we call burden of disease, burden of death and burden of hospitalization,” Galvez said during a meeting of the government’s pandemic task force last Monday.

“If we (vaccinate) them, we can contain death and the fatalities. We have low and high targets, wherein once we achieve the 25 million, at least we will have what is called the initial herd containment,” he added.

The government’s high target for herd containment is inoculating 50 million people by September, according to Galvez’s report.

For herd immunity, the low target is vaccinating 58 million people while the high target is administering COVID-19 shots to 70 million people by November.

Herd immunity was defined by the WHO as indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune through vaccination.

The government is hopeful that COVID-19 would be eliminated by the second quarter of next year. It expects 110 million Filipinos to have been immunized against the disease by that time.

“Once we already have the science that we can give the vaccine even to children, we will target the 110 million population,” Galvez said.

As of last Monday, more than 2.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered while 1.9 million individuals have been inoculated.

The government is employing a “focus and expand through center of gravity,” where the economic centers and vulnerable areas would be prioritized in the vaccination program, according to Galvez.

“If we address this, we can strengthen our vulnerabilities and at the same time… our economic strength,” he said.

The vaccine czar said the focus areas would be Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

Expansion areas for vaccination or those that are contiguous with Metro Manila and economic centers outside the capital region will be subdivided into four groups.

The first group is composed of Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio City and Zamboanga City, while the second group consists of the cities of Bacolod, Iloilo, General Santos and Iligan, as well as Central Visayas and Davao region.

The third group is composed of Northern Mindanao, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga peninsula, Cagayan Valley and Cordillera Administrative Region, while the fourth group consists of Bicol, Ilocos, Soccsksargen and Caraga.

Galvez said the aim of the strategy is to vaccinate 58.68 million or 70 percent of the 83.82 million residents in the expansion areas.

“If we have a good global supply (of vaccines), we won’t have any problem,” he added.

Galvez said 1.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by American firm Pfizer and 500,000 doses of jabs made by Chinese drug maker Sinovac are expected to arrive this month. He added that negotiations are ongoing for the delivery of two million doses of Russia-made Sputnik vaccines.

“If all these vaccines arrive, we would have an inventory of 11,364,000 (vaccine doses),” he said.

He added that the Philippines’ vaccine inventory would increase to 20.5 million doses in June if all deliveries arrive as planned.

Pfizer jabs

The United States on Monday welcomed the successful delivery to the Philippines of 193,050 doses of the?Pfizer-BioNTech?COVID-19 vaccine.

The US-made Pfizer-BioNTech?COVID-19 vaccine is one of the safest and most effective vaccines in the world, according to reports.

The US embassy in Manila said the delivery is the first tranche of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines after the arrival of 2,030,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last Saturday, bringing total COVAX deliveries to the Philippines to 2,673,000 doses. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Pia Lee-Brago, Robertzon Ramirez, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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