Hit vaccination targets first before enacting new policies, Metro Manila mayors urge

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Hit vaccination targets first before enacting new policies, Metro Manila mayors urge
Residents receive their first dose of Moderna vaccine at the "Vaccine Express" of Vice President Leni Robredo's team in San Pedro Laguna on Aug. 28, 2021.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila mayors are keen on hitting vaccination targets in the capital region first before enforcing new policies to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Metro Manila Council disclosed Wednesday.

Speaking at a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Metro Manila Development Authority chief Benhur Abalos said this agreement at the council's latest meeting extended to proposals from government officials to allow fully vaccinated individuals to enter certain establishments as a privilege. 

Out of Metro Manila's eligible population of around 9.8 million, 80.6% or 7.9 million have already received their first vaccine dose, Abalos said. Some 45.3% or some 4.4 million are already fully vaccinated with two doses.

"For us, we should really hit a certain target of the vaccine first, that's very important for us...hopefully, it doesn't become discriminatory in the sense that you can't go inside [a place] if you're not vaccinated," Abalos said in mixed Filipino and English. 

"This is what I want to point out: we're already close to accomplishing our 50 percent [target] of the 9.8 million eligible population...just give us one or two or even three days for that. We'll hit the 50%."

The 9.8 million eligible population is 70% of the total 14 million population in Metro Manila, or the target equalling herd immunity if fully vaccinated. 

Abalos was careful to point out that most vaccines required a waiting time of at least a few weeks in between the first and second doses as he vowed that vaccination in the capital region would likely hit "70% at the end of September."

"That's what we're going to hit, more or less," he said. 

MMDA warns against 'discriminatory' segregation policies

Metro Manila's quarantine status was leveled down to modified enhanced community quarantine until Tuesday, September 7.

As it currently stands, Abalos said, there are 3,040 households, 19 buildings, and seven barangays under granular lockdown in the capital region. 

He added that isolation facilities in Metro Manila posted a more than 70% occupancy rate, while there are also 18 close contacts found for every confirmed case in the region, good for a 1:18 contact tracing ratio.

However, the ideal contact tracer ratio is between 1:30 to 1:37 in urban areas, a figure the Department of the Interior and Local Government admitted in March was "virtually impossible" to achieve.

The concurrent MMC chief also said that any policies should impose positive reinforcement to incentivize getting jabbed instead of discriminating against the unvaccinated. 

"For example [...] right now what we have are more of activities that the vaccinated are not able to do like closed spaces that are really prohibited, but being vaccinated is an incentive so you can go inside," Abalos said.

"That's what we're looking at and studying now just so we can help the economy...so maybe it's possible, we're just waiting for the details on that."

To date, the Department of Health's national caseload tally has topped the 2 million mark after recording 14,216 more infections later Wednesday afternoon. 

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