MANILA (UPDATE) - A public health expert is backing brandless vaccinations and prioritizing COVID-19 inoculations in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to achieve herd immunity in the economic hub.
Dr. Tony Leachon, former adviser of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said that at the current rate of 75,000 to 80,000 daily vaccinations, the Philippines will take 5 years to vaccinate 70 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity.
"The best approach is to achieve the NCR Plus herd immunity first because this is the business epicenter and this would comprise also 70 percent of the cases," he told ANC's Headstart.
"After this you can move to the hotspots right now. Considering what they will do in the countryside is increase testing, isolation (facilities), and contact tracing. Then when you have enough vaccines, then you have to deploy to those areas. They would comprise only 30 percent and that would not create a dent in the herd immunity."
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez earlier said government would need to vaccinate 500,000 persons daily or 3 million per week nationwide to achieve herd immunity by end of year. In Metro Manila, some 120,000 need to be vaccinated daily to achieve the target, he said.
The Philippines also needs to ramp up its inoculation rate before the rainy season, Leachon added.
"I remember the surge was July and August last year. Baka maghahalo ang evacuation center from the vaccination center. So while it is summer, we have to speed up the vaccination... kasi pag nag-August na it will be really difficult," he said.
The government needs to construct or tap drugstores and malls for additional vaccination sites, he added.
Leachon also called on local governments not to announce what kind of vaccine its residents would get so that it can unload supplies of less popular brands from the warehouse.
Hundreds swarmed vaccination sites in Manila and Parañaque as they rolled out the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
"Vaccine hesitancy may actually be brand-related. I would actually suggest a brandless vaccination," he said.
When asked if Filipinos should be given a choice on COVID-19 vaccine, Leachon said, "I don’t think so."
"For example in our hospital, it’s not announced. Many prominent people are taking Sinovac, even Secretary Galvez... Right what is important is in the real world, its (effective)," he said.
The Philippines is set to receive some 7.7 million COVID-19 vaccines this month and 10,050,000 more in June, Galvez said.
As of Monday, the Philippines has administered 3,001,875 COVID-19 jabs since it began its inoculation program in March, Galvez added.