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DOH aims for 'population protection' on way to herd immunity vs COVID-19

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DOH aims for 'population protection' on way to herd immunity vs COVID-19
People are photographed at Marikina Sports Center during the continuation of vaccination program on May 25, 2021.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The national government is shifting its vaccination target to achieving “population protection” against COVID-19, which can help in decreasing hospitalization and deaths, the Department of Health said.

“We are shifting to the term 'population protection' through mass immunization kasi ‘yung herd immunity maraming mga kaakibat na criteria. (Because herd immunity has a lot of attached criteria). We are considering the variant,” Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said in a briefing Wednesday.

“The term now is really population protection. We prevent hospitalization, we prevent and minimize deaths by prioritizing,” Cabotaje, who chairs the National Vaccination Operations Center, added.

Nearly three months since the start of the country’s inoculation drive, only 1.02 million have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The figure represents only 0.94% of the country’s roughly 110 million population.

Meanwhile, 3.46 million people have received the first of two doses.

Changing targets

The original goal of the government is to vaccinate up to 70 million people to achieve herd immunity, or the indirect protection from an infectious disease like COVID-19 that happens when a population is immune.

Then, it adjusted its target from attaining herd community across the country by the end 2021 to expanding inoculation coverage in Metro Manila and other regions that are economically critical and have been reporting high number of cases, citing the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines globally.

The government is now aiming to inoculate 50 to 60 million, with focus on the so-called “NCR Plus 8 areas.”

In a briefing Monday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said achieving herd community nationwide is a “long-term goal.”

“Our goal right now is to protect our vulnerable sectors,” she said.

But Cabotaje said the country may still reach its original target of vaccinating 70 million “if the supply will be good and the global market will improve.”

Currently, only health workers, senior citizens and people with comorbidities are being vaccinated. The government is gearing up to inoculate frontliners in essential sectors and indigent Filipinos by June. 

The Philippines has so far recorded 1.19 million COVID-19 cases, including 20,169 deaths. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

COVID-19 VACCINES NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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